Thursday, June 21, 2007

CQ: Smith's Senate Seat is "Republican Favored"

Congressional Quarterly has come out with its latest ratings for the thirty-three 2008 Senate races. Here's their take on Oregon and Gordon Smith:

Incumbent: Gordon Smith (first elected in 1996) Rating: Republican Favored

The 2008 Oregon Senate contest, in which Smith will try for a third term, began the election cycle with a more competitive “Leans Republican” rating from, and could eventually move back in that direction. Oregon, though not quite a Democratic stronghold, has been trending in the direction of that party, which has carried the state in the past five presidential elections.

Yet Smith’s odds for winning re-election have improved in recent months. Part of this is because of some very public breaks with President Bush — particularly over his handling of the war in Iraq — that reflect public opinion in Oregon and also burnish Smith’s reputation as a Republican centrist.

But perhaps the bigger reason for his improved outlook is that no state has produced more frustration for Democratic recruiters so far in the 2008 cycle. Their early efforts focused on the state’s U.S House delegation, in which Democrats hold four of the five seats. But one by one, Reps. Peter A. DeFazio, Earl Blumenauer and David Wu took themselves out of the running, joined by the fourth House Democrat, Darlene Hooley, who never was seen as seriously considering a Senate bid.

Currently, the only Democratic candidate is lawyer and activist Steve Novick, best known for leading the successful fight against a state anti-tax ballot initiative last November. Novick has considerable credibility in the Portland political community, but is virtually unknown outside of it. Other possible candidates could include Republican-turned-Democrat state Sen. Ben Westlund and Senate Majority Whip Alan Bates.

There also is the possibility of an independent candidacy that could require the recalculation of the political odds in Oregon: John Frohnmayer, who headed the National Endowment for the Arts under President George H.W. Bush, has hinted at such a bid next year.

Regardless of who runs against him, Smith will not lack for resources. He reported $2.8 million on hand and has said he could raise as much as $10 million for the race.

This seems to be a fairly reasonable assessment of what we're up against.