"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.

Jefferson Smith’s limits


The Oregonian, somewhat piling on itself, asked in an article this morning whether Portland mayoral candidate Jefferson Smith has reached a point at which he no longer can win the job of mayor.

It came to no definitive conclusions, noting that while the negatives – articles about frequent driving problems and now about punching a woman some years back – have been accumulating, it’s also true that Portland voters often are a forgiving bunch.

The sense here is that forgiveness has its limits, too, and they may well have been breached at this point. Fresh polling could change the picture, but the norm is that voters become wary when they see too steady a dripping of unexpected bad news about a candidate they don’t know so well. This is the time, many voters reasonably assume, that a candidate should look at their best: Still fresh, with shiny new ideas and no harsh collisions yet with the realities of governing.

Smith doesn’t look that way now, and what’s really hurt has been controversies over not complex policies but basic subjects most people encounter and deal with on a regular basis: Driving around while street legal, and staying out of fist fights. The narrative that seems to be developing about Smith is that he’s an interesting person, maybe even a brilliant person, but that he has trouble managing the ordinary and everyday. The idea of sending someone like that into the mayor’s office is likely to seem a little disquieting.

Former Council member Charlie Hales has to have the edge at this point.

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