OR-Sen: Democrats Rising Against Smith

There is a fierce primary battle being waged in Oregon for the Democratic nomination to take on Senator Gordon Smith in November between OR House speaker Jeff Merkley and longtime Democratic activist/consultant Steve Novick. Smith has been truly one of the worst examples of Republicans who pretend to be moderate and independent-minded yet have voted time and time again to advance the Bush agenda. If the new Rasmussen Reports survey out of Oregon is any indication, though, voters are onto Smith and are ready to replace him with a real Democrat, not a Republican who pretends to be one every 6 years.

According to Rasmussen, both Democrats are within striking distance of Smith and rising, with the better known Merkley polling a bit better within the margin of error. Interestingly, there's also evidence that the primary itself, while bruising at times, has benefitted both Democrats and damaged Smith.

May 7Mar. 25Feb. 13
Smith (R):454748

May 7Mar. 25Feb. 13
Smith (R):474648

500 OR LVs interviewed May 7, MoE +/- 4%

This is dangerous territory for Smith as an incumbent consistently polling below the magic 50%. And as for the primary, fast approaching on May 20, despite the fact that Novick has been polling slightly better than his opponent, the Rasmussen results may be a leading indicator of some momentum for Jeff Merkley as his upward trajectory against Smith is more consistent and pronounced, which appears to have Gordon Smith running scared as he's already launched an attack ad against Merkley and Merkley alone, indicating that, as Blue Oregon points out:

...Smith is trying to hand select his opponent. And he wants Novick.

While we've stayed largely out of picking sides in this race, I have to say Senate Guru, whose blog should be among your daily reads if you're interested in the senate races this cycle, makes a strong case for Jeff Merkley in his endorsement. And Novick's tendency to bash Democrats doesn't exactly inspire confidence.  

Are you following the race? Do you have a preference, make the case for your candidate in the comments.

Tags: Gordon Smith, Jeff Merkley, OR-Sen, Steve Novick (all tags)



Re: OR-Sen: Democrats Rising Against Smith

I much prefer Merkley.  I think hes the better candidate, has a higher ceiling and also has not disrespected his opponent or the blogosphere.

by Bobby Obama 2008-05-10 03:46PM | 0 recs
Re: OR-Sen: Democrats Rising Against Smith

I much prefer Novick.  He's grittier and less bland.

Both Novick and Merkley, whichever wins the primary, are going to be at a HUGE money disadvantage against Smith in the general election.

by Susan in Oregon 2008-05-10 03:50PM | 0 recs
Top of the Ticket Help

Which Democratic presidential contender is most likely to help us get over the top in this tough race?  All polls show Obama running stronger in OR general election than Clinton.

by soccerandpolitics 2008-05-10 03:51PM | 0 recs
Re: OR-Sen: Democrats Rising Against Smith

I just want to win.  Merkley looks like the best bet.

If we could win OR and NC, that would be amazing.

by Fuzzy Dunlop 2008-05-10 03:54PM | 0 recs
Re: OR-Sen: Democrats Rising Against Smith

do you say Merkley looks the best for a reason?  Or does he just have more money to look the best?

by froggyman 2008-05-10 03:59PM | 0 recs
Re: OR-Sen: Democrats Rising Against Smith

I think Merkley is a very strong candidate. He's been a very effective progressive legislator here in Oregon. Besides his influence in flipping the House from long time Republican rule, he championed a ton of progressive bills he was able to get Republicans to cross over and vote for. Domestic partnerships legislation, payday lending regulation, the employee free choice act and a ton of environmental bills.

Both candidates are progressive Dems so we're lucky we don't have a moderate in the race. I support Merkley because I want to see what he can accomplish at the national level.

by Sarah Lane 2008-05-10 10:45PM | 0 recs
Re: OR-Sen: Democrats Rising Against Smith

...Smith is trying to hand select his opponent. And he wants Novick.

That's because entrenched politicians become hidebound in out of date notions such as entrenched politicians being the most likely to win. But in this year of change, someone who hasn't been in government forever may be the more formidible opponent.

I'd put my money on the exact opposite of what the old conventional wisdom says.

by Kobi 2008-05-10 03:56PM | 0 recs
Novick for sure
He'd be one of the smartest congressmen (he went to Harvard Law when he was only 18-years-old!), and look at this sweet ad:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N2UesvrH- cs
by froggyman 2008-05-10 03:58PM | 0 recs
Re: OR-Sen: Democrats Rising Against Smith

I voted for Merkley.  He has been a great Speaker so far, and he has potential to appeal to a more broad coalition.  His campaign is getting better, though it may be too late.  Novick might just pull it off, in which case, I will be for him for sure.  With Obama at the top, I think we got a great shot.

by gorebeatbush2 2008-05-10 06:37PM | 0 recs
Novick is all style, and too little substance

to be a credible Senate challenger.

Smith would eat him alive, whereas Merkley has the experience of enacting a progressive agenda in Oregon that will rally the Democratic base in Oregon behind him.

by verasoie 2008-05-10 06:44PM | 0 recs
Novick's the progressive

His opponent is the one the DC Dems are funding. Novick is holding his own against much bigger money from the DSCC. He's much more likely to be his own man and is the far better choice for the netroots to support. I asked Joe Trippi, yesterday, how the DNC and Democratic leadership will be different with Obama and his bottom up campaign and leadership model in charge. He repied that John Tester won, in spite of his opponent being backed by the DSCC. Tester won because of the netroots. Backing the big money, old guard, top-down politician who owes everyone in the state-- or the independent, not afraid to speak up about issues with Dems-- after all, they're not exactly perfect-- he's the one for me.

by robkall 2008-05-10 06:45PM | 0 recs
Poor portrait of Oregon politics

I don't think you understand why Merkley is the Speaker.

Merkley is the Speaker because he scraped the top down approach to getting House Democrats elected.  Merkley and his campaign manager Jon Isaacs engaged organizations like the Bus Project, the Oregon League of Conservation Voters, and SEIU to bring Democrats election strategy back to the grassroots and knocking on an obscene number of doors in 2006.  They recruited strong unwavering progressives to run. Merkley also diverted resources to campaigns in rural and other areas that perform poorly for Democrats in his own version of the 50 state strategy to rebuild the party brand.  In doing so Merkley ended 16 years of Republican rule in the House.  He doesn't owe anybody, but Oregonians who have enjoyed having progressive legislation passed certainly owe him.

That is exactly the kind of politician I like to support.

by bdunn 2008-05-10 07:32PM | 0 recs
Re: Poor portrait of Oregon politics

Well said.

by Sarah Lane 2008-05-10 10:49PM | 0 recs
strong analysis

Novick's the more progressive candidate, and has been very effective in Oregon pushing progressive causes in the public interest.

Something is up when all four Portland papers agree in their endorsement--including the rather staid statewide Oregonian. They almost never agree, and for The O in particular not to go with the safe establishment choice is eyebrow-lifting.

Steve has the best personal endorsement (the highly crossover-popular former governor John Kitzhaber), the best union endorsement (the venerable and highly active OEA--"teachers talk" says Steve), and the best paper endorsement (The O, along with 6 of 9 other state papers).

He also has the best grassroots support instate. This election year he's taken in 75% of his money from Oregonians; Merkley was at 30% in April. Novick's actually outraised Merkley by almost $100,000 in 2008, which I don't think people know but is highly suggestive of where the instate support is that will be crucial.

The latest SUSA had Novick up 35-11 among the 18-34 crowd. Obama reg'd 30,000 people in Oregon, and 58% of the 98,000 new registrants(!!) are under 30. It's insane out here. If those kids come out to put Obama over the top on May 20th, I have a hard time seeing how Merkley makes his nut. There will be a lot of downticket spillage to Novick.

Novick also already has a national profile, which I think portends well for after the primary. He's already had several national feature interviews, and his Beer With Steve ad went viral. His story's a natural, and he's an almost perfect example of the kind of real-change Democrat progressives are looking to get into office. We talk a lot about principled progressives--this is a dream candidate for sticking to his principles.

It could go either way, but as I said if youth turnout is high, smart money's on Novick.

by torridjoe 2008-05-10 09:19PM | 0 recs
You spin right round like a record right round

How can you argue that Merkley has overwhelmingly dominated national fund raising but that Novick has a better national profile?  

Lets compare the numbers.  Merkley has raised more than  $1.8m and Novick despite being in the race 5 months longer than Merkley just barely scraped by the $1m mark last week.  TJ already pointed out that Merkley was far and away leading in national donations. That shows a much more substantial national profile and backing for Merkley.

by bdunn 2008-05-11 08:18AM | 0 recs
Re: OR-Sen: Democrats Rising Against Smith

Smith definitely seems to be targeting Jeff Merkley..going after him solely and directly in his latest attack ad.

If you've got some spare change and can throw it Jeff's way, it could go along way to helping us keep ads on the air and push back through the primary.

Carla--Netroots Outreach, Jeff Merkley for ORegon

by carla 2008-05-10 07:10PM | 0 recs
Smith attacking both

Let's keep in mind that Smith just last week did an ad attacking Novick, that Smith is responding to an attack ad Merkley did on Smith last week, and also that Republicans like to head fake. Remember when Matt Dowd admitted they attacked Kerry to galvanize support, so they wouldn't have to face Edwards?

It's a fool's errand to start letting Gordon Smith decide a primary vote. I'd no more consider him than I'd consider Hamas' "endorsement."

by torridjoe 2008-05-10 09:21PM | 0 recs
Merkley all the way

I decided my vote based on two questions: Who can beat Smith? and Who would make a better Senator?

For me it's Merkley in a landslide on both counts.

Merkley would be a better Senator: I was able to watch Merkley work as an intern in the legislature and it was amazing.  He took a one vote majority and turned it into the most progressive legislative session Oregon has had since the 70s, passing renewable energy standards, made sexual orientation a protected class with nondiscrimination legislation, doubled the number of college scholarships the state offers, passed card check majority sign up for unions, among a whole host of other great progressive legislation.

Merkley has the best shot against Smith:  Merkley has a way of framing progressive values as mainstream values that will play well with the Oregon electorate.  Merkley is the only Democrat that has put together the infrastructure needed to beat Smith. Coupled with his much better fundraising and better polling head to head against Smith, Merkley will be a general election force to be reckoned with.

For me it was an easy decision

by bdunn 2008-05-10 07:21PM | 0 recs
Re: OR-Sen: Democrats Rising Against Smith

>I much prefer Merkley.  I think hes the better candidate, has a higher ceiling and also has not disrespected his opponent or the blogosphere.

He is certainly NOT the better candidate. He has run a weak and uninspiring campaign. he should have put Novick away six months ago, but he has never been able to.

I'm not sure how Steve Novick could be said to have "disrespected his opponent." I'll cop to the fact that I don't particularly respect his opponent. But Steve seems to respect Jeff far more than I do. Merkley has run a nasty, supercilious, almost contemptuous campaign against Steve.

And what on earth do you mean about "disrespecting the blogosphere?" Unlike his opponent, Steve has actually BLOGGED before he was a candidate. In fact that was one of the ways he got in trouble. He wrote witty, provocative blog posts that contained colorful language that Merkley mined for short phrases that could be made to sound poisonous.

I can't say whether Merkley's ceiling is higher or lower than Novick's. But his floor is WAY LOWER, and he's on his way to tbe basement right now.

by Portlandia 2008-05-10 09:39PM | 0 recs
Re: OR-Sen: Democrats Rising Against Smith

I'd prefer Novick, although Merkley's not a bad choice. I don't think his campaign has impressed during the primaries, but if he can get his act together and start bringing in the money, he's got a pretty good chance.

But please don't link to NovickInsultsDemocrats. It's a dishonest website, both in terms of taking words out of context and in terms of those running the ad having had no problems with the words when they originally read them.

by Englishlefty 2008-05-11 06:51AM | 0 recs
Novick is the Answer

I find it disheartening that this post links to Kari Chrisholm's (founder of blueoregon.ocom) novickinsultsdemocrats.com, which is a wholly dishonest representations of the the truth. While Merkley's policies are progressive, he is standard politician - the same kind of politician Gordon Smith knows how to beat. Steve Novick is the most inspiring, refreshing candidate to emerge from Oregon in a long time. His supposed "insults" to democrats is entirely disingenuous, as all of his criticisms were gleaned from year and a half old blog posts that are criticizing democrats for not being progressive enough. Novick represents the only real change that Oregon can afford.

by Joe Piucci 2008-05-11 02:40PM | 0 recs


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