"No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions." --Thomas Jefferson to John Tyler, 1804.

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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