Totally predictable, but this contention didn't take long to surface. From the conservative Oregon Catalyst blog, by KYKN radio talker Bill Post:
"Instead of trying to please the middle, instead of trying to sound like you are not going to make any waves and play nice with the folks who have dug Oregon into this hole, what the Dudley campaign should have said is: “this State requires a complete makeover and I will be the one to do that even if it means only one term, I will stick to Conservative principles and will surround myself with strong Conservatives and I will not sleep until Oregon is the back in the condition it deserves to be in. That means that some old pictures are going to fall off of the wall.”"
Probably is true that Dudley didn't excite the core of the base as much it would have liked; but at least as many votes would have peeled off the center had Dudley campaigned as suggested. There's not a lot of objective evidence that Oregon voters are eagerly waiting for an ideological conservative to elect. (About as much evidence as that Idaho voters are breathlessly waiting for an ideological liberal.) The more logical answer should be to reframe the arguments between the parties. But few of us will hold our breath waiting for that.
Post did offer one very interesting insiderish bit as well: "All the way back in February and March of 2010, several people, very prominent in the Conservative movement and the Republican Party, met with Chris Dudley and his campaign staff. These people spoke very clearly to Mr. Dudley. He was advised, urgently, to “get rid of those people”. Of course “those people” were the Gordon Smith insiders including Dan Lavey and Kerry Timchuck. Later, Brittany Brammel and LeRoy Coleman and other “outsiders”. To their faces, they were told that they could not win this election, that Chris had to surround himself with Oregonians, and especially Oregonians who understand Oregon, not just the Portland Metro area. Chris was told during several long meetings, before the primary mind you, that he had a real chance to win if he listened now! Chris chose to go with the plan they had laid out for him and now we see the results."
All candidates for major office are heavily reliant on a strong infrastructure for support, but Dudley, who had never run for anything before and whose detailed knowledge of Oregon and its government was not especially detailed (in contrast to an extremely wonkish opponent), was more reliant on help than most. And it should be said that, while he did lose, he came very close, closer than any Republican since the last one elected governor in 1982, Vic Atiyeh. That's not exactly a shameful result.
The larger point is that in a race this close, any one of a hundred factors could have turned it; you can take your pick about which were most crucial. I'd rank the Democratic get out the vote effort maybe around the top, but you could make an argument for others too.
But there is this question (probably not one Dudley personally should agonize over, but other Republicans might consider for future reference): Is there something else Dudley could have done that might have added to his vote totals while not subtracting from the votes he did get?
The day after the primary, he should have challenged Democrat John Kitzhaber to a series of debates, one every other week from early June through October, and gone so far as to cave in on matters of time and place but require that all must be televised (if only on cable) and streamed as well.
Kitzhaber might have taken him up on it; it would have looked enticing. And it would have been a risk. But Dudley would have gained instant credibility and sympathy for his willingness to take what would have been presented as a huge risk. The guess here is that by going up against Kitzhaber over and over, even if losing some of the early rounds, he would have become a far more effective debater by the end, and Kitzhaber's advantage as the sharp and experienced guy would have begun to erode. By the time of the last few debates, which would be the only ones still in people's minds at voting time, he probably would have struck many of the voters in the middle as a more credible governor.
Maybe. But next, we get to see where the Oregon Republican Party goes after having turned in one of the least-impressive results in the country in the best Republican year in years.
ONE OTHER THING. After delivering his concession, a reporter asked Dudley when he was going to do next. He was standing in front of a Mexican restaurant; he said he thought he would go inside and have a margarita. That sounded like your or I, or any normal person: An open human moment. It didn't sound scripted. Dudley, a disciplined candidate, could have used a little less script in this campaign.