Watching and evaluating the outcome of the Oregon Senate has been a matter of ongoing migration. It has always been a close thing - ever since, really, November of 2006, if not earlier. Republican Senator Gordon Smith's December 2006 reversal on Iraq, however sincere and policy-driven it may have been, stands as symbol of that.
Still, the most common consensus during most of the time since then has been that Smith probably has a small edge: Small, but still there. Sometime in the summer, the race seemed to become more unpredictable even beyond that. But somewhere in the last few weeks it seems to have hit a new stage: Still close, but with an edge to Democrat Jeff Merkley.
You could see it in analyses coming out just today. From Charles Cook (in his Tuesday email), the veteran national analyst: "Republican nominee Bob Schaffer in the open seat in Colorado and GOP incumbents John Sununu in New Hampshire and Gordon Smith in Oregon all appear to be running behind their Democratic opponents by a handful of points. With just three weeks left, it's hard to see how they recover, barring an unforeseen event."
And today in Congressional Quarterly: "Despite attempts to link himself with high-profile Democrats, Republican Gordon H. Smith is facing an increasingly difficult battle for votes in the highly competitive Oregon Senate race.
Due to Smith’s perceived challenges, continued Democratic growth in the state of Oregon and Smith’s failure to gain a strong lead in recent polls, CQ Politics is changing the rating of the race from Leans Republican to No Clear Favorite, our most competitive category." But bear in mind that CQ is loathe to lean a race which includes an incumbent, toward a challenger: There's a built-in lean toward incumbents. Calling it "no clear favorite" equates to "leaning Democratic" for most of us.
Cal it partly the atmosphere: Democrats in many places are being boosted. And maybe the negatives in campaigning: Both Smith and Merkley may be absorbing hits for it, but the effect even of that is to equate them. Precious few of the usual advantages of incumbency seem now to be doing Gordon Smith much good.
ALSO A New York Times article out today, focusing on the Oregon Senate race, is worth a read in reviewing some of this.
And this quote from Bill Kennemer, the Republican Clackamas County commissioner running for state representative: “I was going door to door the other day and someone asked, ‘Why don’t you put “Republican” on these fliers?’ I said, ‘Because I don’t want to lose.’ ”