The political norm for an incumbent seeking re-election, especially one whose support is based in great part on the fact that people like him, is to stay positive, at least most of the time: Emphasize those things people like about them. Be sparing in the shots taken at the opposition, and mostly just ride over top of them; look bigger than they are.
Which makes the current round of press releases (and more) from the campaign of incumbent Republican Senator Gordon Smith highly interesting. Already unusual for its attachment in a couple of spots to national Democrats Barack Obama and John Kerry, it's of interest here because of the nearly unbroken stream of releases critical of Democratic opponent Jeff Merkley. Here's the complete list of press releases now noted on the Smith campaign website:
09.09.08 MERKLEY ALLIES LAUNCH MORE FALSE ATTACKS
09.01.08 Smith to Merkley: You’re Not in Kansas Anymore
08.28.08 History Channel’s ‘Ax Men’ Endorse Gordon Smith
08.26.08 Jeff Merkley: Slinging Mud, Twisting the Facts
08.25.08 Gordon Smith Releases New TV Ad
08.22.08 Smith Announces Debate Schedule
08.21.08 The Liar, the Switch and the Wardrobe
08.20.08 Merkley Cannibalizes Fellow Democrats
08.14.08 Jeff Merkley: Flat Out Wrong on Seniors
07.30.08 Another Merkley "Plan:" Gas Plan Still Hypocritical, Out of Touch, Stolen
Of course, it's always a candidate's prerogative to go after the opposition, and Smith acknowledges, "It's the strongest headwind I've ever faced." Still, is he doing some damage here to one of his best assets - his likability?