Anonymous: Good Morning Paul. How do you see Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore) re-election? A poll said he was trailing his opponent by 2 percent.
Paul Kane: Ah, the best sleeper Senate race in the country right now. I think this will be the race that is the equivalent to Tester-Burns from '06. These are two good candidates -- Smith spent the 1st five years of this decade voting a bit more conservative than his state's political ideology, but the past 3 years he has aggressively moved back to the middle and he's now firmly planted in the ideological sweet spot of his state, and he's adamantly opposed to the Iraq war. Jeff Merkley is the state House speaker, with lots of connections to the Democratic Party there, lots of institutional knowledge. Smith has all the money he'll ever need. I think this is going down to the wire. If the race is all about Smith and his votes in '01-'05 in favor of most Bush administration policies, then Merkley can win. If it's about how Smith has become an independent voice for Oregon, then he wins.
(Emphasis added. Silliness in the original.)
Memo to Kane: Do your homework. Oregon Democrats (with the occasional irritating exception of Ron Wyden) have never trusted Smith. Oregon Republicans suspect and fear he's a RINO. He doesn't want to be seen in public with his party's President or his party's presumptive presidential nominee (although he's the chair of the latter's Oregon election campaign and he'll certainly let either of those worthies fundraise for him).
And the Oregon independents . . . well, here's what the Independent Party of Oregon has to say about him:
"We are supporting Jeff Merkley because he is the true 'independent' in this race," said Linda Williams, state chair of the Independent Party. "Gordon Smith is very dependent – dependent on the utilities, drug companies, and other corporations for the millions of dollars he is spending on ads denying his record as a Bush Administration rubber stamp. He has voted repeatedly against campaign finance reform, including the McCain-Feingold reforms in 1997 and 2002, and has denounced voter-enacted campaign finance reforms in Oregon. He has been the Republican point-man against campaign finance reform on the TV talk shows."
Smith is an "independent" only in the sense that, with each passing day, no one's really on his side anymore. He's gradually becoming a man with a war chest, and that's about it.
Oh, yeah, and postscript to Kane: That bit about Smith being "adamantly opposed to the Iraq war?" During one long, dark night of the soul a week after the Republican were routed in the 2006 midterm elections, alone in the Senate chamber near midnight, Smith did say this:
"I for one am at the end of my rope when it comes to supporting a policy that has our soldiers patrolling the same streets in the same way, being blown up by the same bombs day after day. That is absurd. It may even be criminal. I cannot support that anymore."
But in the cold light of the following day, his staffers were already walking that one back as best they could: Did the Senator really say criminal? Well, yes, but not in the legal sense, only in the sense that it was ridiculous and absurd. Which, as an explanation, makes about as much sense as if Smith had called the war ridiculous and absurd--but only in the sense that it was criminal. Two different things, guys.
And in any case Oregon's Junior senator has managed to rise above semantics and continue his record of unflinching support for Bush and his Iraq war.
Looks like he found some more rope after all.
Is Gordon Smith really independent? Well, yes, but only in the sense that he's completely in lock-step with Republicans George Bush and John McCain.