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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.

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