"I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions. But laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors." - Thomas Jefferson (appears in the Jefferson Memorial)

OR: We’re #1 (in closeness)

Could it be that Oregon’s is the most closely-fought U.S. Senate race in the country? Yes, it could, which would explain the rash of really intense TV spots, both positive and negative, both from campaigns and not.

The polling has been plentiful, and the conclusion overall is steady and clear: Republican incumbent Gordon Smith and Democratic challenger Jeff Merkley are within a couple of points of each other – and within the margin of error. Such a result has been closer and steadier for longer, as far as we can tell, than any other Senate race in the country.

The Cook Political Report rates it as “tossup,” one of just five such (the others being Colorado, Minnesota, North Carolina and New Hampshire).

From our sense of what’s happening in those other states, we’d feel more comfortable giving slight leans (Democratic in Colorado and New Hampshire, Republican in Minnesota and North Carolina) than either way in Oregon.

Congressional Quarterly (CQ Politics) rates it as leaning Republican, but says this: “Two-term Republican Gordon Smith is in a statistical tie with Democratic challenger Jeff Merkley, the speaker of the state House, leading him 46 percent to 45 percent with 2 percent choosing “other” and 7 percent undecided in a Rasmussen Reports poll conducted Sept. 15. The margin of error is 4 points. Smith’s favorable to unfavorable ratio is 49 percent to 46 percent while Merkley is viewed unfavorably by 46 percent and favorably by 45 percent.” That’s essentially a tie.

Expect the ads to accelerate.

UPDATE A Research 2000 poll (for Daily Kos) just out gives Merkley what we think is the largest lead over Smith he’s posted so far, 45%-40%. It puts the Obama-McCain topline at 53%-39%, also one of the largest reported for Oregon so far.

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