Writings and observations

Asingle instance of some kind of reading can always be a fluke, an outlier. Get a similar reading the second time, and it starts to look a little more solid. Certainly makes you interested in whatever comes around in reading number three.

In the U.S. Senate race in Oregon, between Republican incumbent Gordon Smith and Democratic challenger Jeff Merkley, we’ve seen a couple of singular indicators that were interesting, but possibly outliers. Now, today, we have a couple of seconding confirmers.

One is in polling. Most polling this year has given Smith the lead, but on July 16 came a Rasmussen poll putting Merkley up, narrowly, 43%-41%. Interesting, but you have accept a number of caveats: It was the only poll to show such a result, the numbers were well within the margin of error, and so on.

Today, however, comes a Zogby poll putting Merkley ahead 38%-29%. There are some automatic question marks associated with it, notably the presence of Independent John Frohnmayer, recipient of 8%, who dropped out of the race several weeks ago. Against that, however, is news out today that the organization whose banner Frohnmayer represented, the Independent Party, has given Merkley its nomination. So, albeit in some limited ways, the Rasmussen poll finds some support here.

The other is in advertising. A few weeks back Smith ran out a much-touted ad pointing out how he has worked jointly, in the Senate, with Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential candidate. There being no advertising touting his close relationship with Obama’s Republican counterpart John McCain, this was widely taken as an effort to distance himself from the national Republican Party, or maybe from Republicans and Republican positions generally. (A bunch of recent votes show Smith breaking from his caucus majority.) But maybe that was just an outlier.

Except that today comes an ad in which Smith talks about his work on helping homeowners deal with the threat of foreclosure – and about his work on that subject with 2004 Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry. First Obama, now Kerry . . . can Gore be far behind?

Expect to see more interesting advertising in the next few weeks, as Smith’s campaign tries to correct what looks like a rough course.

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