Republican 5th District congressional nominee Mike Erikson is abruptly showing some signs of making a campaign.
Ted Piccolo at NWRepublican is arguing that this one is a sleeper, that five-termer Democrat Darlene Hooley may be vulnerable, to the point that "Polls are showing that if the Republican candidate can educate voters in that district as to who he is then he wins this race. The tension builds."
Erickson has a very slick website, one of the most technically capable we've seen in the region. Piccolo suggests that substantial Republican financial and other support may be coming his way, and that Erickson is now making media buys.
Hmm. We're going to need more evidence before heading over to that conclusion.
It is true that Republicans have a registration advantage in the 5th (for all that necessarily means), and that there is some history of the district flipping partisan control regularly, though that was pre-Hooley (pre-1996). It's also true that the district narrowly voted for George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004.
Also true: None of that was any different in the last U.S. House election, which Hooley won 53%-44% over a polished and electorally experienced contender, Jim Zupancic. In 2002 she won with 55%, in 2002 57%. (Yes, those numbers have dropped, but that's partly due to additional minor party candidates; the R/D split has remained comparable.) As for that little matter of money, Hooley was way ahead as of the last campaign finance reports, $855,276 to Erickson's $311,817. Money isn't all, but on what basis can he argue he's better positioned now, when the Republican administration in Washington is far less popular in-district than two years ago, than Zupancic was in 2004?
Erickson seems to present himself agreeably, but he's new to political campaigning, not a great asset when you're running for Congress. (Yes, lightning strikes, but not often.) He's not well known around the district, and his best name ID comes from his days as a high school football player. (For some reason Republicans have less than a stellar electoral record in Oregon when they nominate high school jocks who by profession have become business consultants, which Erickson also is.) Until the last couple of weeks, his campaign has been quiet, and three months is hardly the amount of time needed to defeat an incumbent which isn't in any obvious trouble in the district.
The national estimators seem to see it about the same. Congressional Quarterly, which had listed the district as "Democrat favored" (owing to the Republican numbers there in other races), has just shofted it to "safe Democratic." The Cook Political Report has posted it as "Likely Democratic."
Conditions may change, and we'll watch the tracking points Piccolo suggests. But until some critical change occurs, our call of probable Democratic will remain the same, too.