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Posts published in “Day: June 13, 2008”

Parsing Smith, again

Is it something about Oregon Senator Gordon Smith's speech patterns that simply make him hard to follow? We had a tough time trying to make sense late last year of his big Iraq speech on the Senate floor, and the new video circulating today is no easier.

On one level, the Q-and-A here is transparent enough. The question was, "Do you support a much broader extension of partnership rights through, for example in our home state, the recent domestic partnership bill that has passed? And secondly how do you reconcile your position on partnership benefits with your support of the federal marriage amendment and the marriage protection act?"

Smith disposed of the first part easily and clearly: "I am fine with what the legislature did. I think it is a good accommodation of very legitimate demands by gays and lesbians."

The second question, though, seemed to send him backwards, forwards and sideways. His reply - you'd best listen to it yourself - seemed to revolve around concerns about defining marriage and especially federal as opposed to state determinations about it. But when he brought in the whole subject of polygamy, he vanished into verbal quicksand; you suddenly couldn't tell what he was in favor of.

Gotta love his conclusion, though: "And I hope you understand."

OR Sen: Rising in the Fix

Chris Cillizza, the Washington Post political blogger, has been something of a skeptic about the Jeff Merkley campaign in the Oregon Senate race against Republican incumbent Gordon Smith. His take for some time has been that Merkley hasn't "caught fire."

That sense seems to have changed (and we get the sense that it has in places elsewhere too) in his rundown today of the Senate Line, wherein he lists the U.S. Senate seats most likely to switch party control in November. Smith/Merkley has been on the list consistently, but over the months most often moving dwn the rankings. This week it moved up, from No. 8 to No. 6 (behind, in order, Virginia, New Mexico, Colorado, New Hampshire and Alaska). Cillizza's take:

Regular Fix readers know that we have long been skeptical about state House Speaker Jeff Merkley (D). But to his credit, Merkley managed to win the Democratic primary last month over activist Steve Novick and now stands as something close to an even-money bet against Sen. Gordon Smith (R). Why? Obama is a heavy favorite over John McCain in the state this fall, and Merkley will surely benefit from a huge turnout in the Portland-area for the party's nominee. Merkley also caught a break recently when John Frohnmayer, a well known name in the state expected to take votes from the Democratic nominee, dropped his third party bid. Smith is paying attention and doing everything he can to win reelection, but he faces an extremely difficult environment.