EUGENE &

Oregon earned the status of a "battleground" state in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections, drawing frequent visits from the Democratic and Republican nominees and their running mates.

Will the state become a battleground again in 2008, or has Oregon's trend toward choosing Democrats &

including Al Gore and John Kerry &

erased it as a target for multimillion dollar ad campaigns?

It depends on the nominees, said Robert "Mike" Duncan, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, who was in Oregon meeting with state Republican leaders on Thursday.

"I can make a case that it will be in play because some of our top-tier candidates match up well," Duncan said in an interview with The Register-Guard newspaper. "We're making contingency plans depending on who the nominee is."

Duncan declined to say which Republicans might do well in Oregon and which Democrats might be vulnerable in the state.

Jim Moore, a political scientist at Pacific University in Forest Grove, said Arizona Sen. John McCain and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney would seem to be the Republicans with the best chance of putting Oregon's seven electoral votes in play.

McCain is from the West and Romney has ties to Utah, where he headed the 2002 Winter Olympics. But with Romney hardly a sure thing to capture the nomination, and McCain's campaign struggling to gain momentum, Moore said there's a strong chance that Oregon will not be on the national radar next year.

"This is going to be an election where the West Coast states look pretty solidly blue unless something remarkable happens," Moore said.