Friday, July 18, 2008

Gordon Smith's Campaign Falling Into The Same Old Mistakes

Senator Gordon Smith of Oregon is in very lonely company. He is one of only two Republicans who holds a national office in Oregon, the other being Congressman Greg Walden, and Smith is the only elected Republican senator on the entire West Coast. Smith had a decent lead of about 9 points in polls up until only recently by running some positive ads that portrayed himself as willing to work in a bipartisan and cooperative way with Democrats in Congress, and even managed to get the endorsement of a former Democratic Congresswoman, Elizabeth Furse and a longtime African American state senator as well.

But then suddenly Smith's lead was gone in the polls, and Smith has fallen back into his old campaigning habits that have made his races closer and more thrilling than they might have been. Gordon Smith knows full well that when he carpet bombs the airwaves with way too many ads, and especially those that are negative, it tends to backfire on him and actually cost him votes. But here he is again, running way too many ads once again. It was of course way too many ads and way too many negative ads that cost Smith his first race with Senator Ron Wyden. Smith apparently lost control of his own campaign and allowed an juvenile and awful attack ad against Wyden to air, which probably cost him this first election for the senate. Yet the Smith campaign has learned nothing from any of this and is right back again running way too many ads again. This morning alone, I saw so many Smith ads that I'm already sick of them. And the negative message of all the taxes that his opponent, State Senator Jeff Merkley supposedly voted for is probably a little more than a little disingenuous argument, as Smith himself has no doubt voted for some tax increases or to reduce tax breaks during his career in the Oregon legislature or as a senator.

There may be several reasons why Smith has slipped a little behind Merkley in the latest polls and lost his nine point lead, but one of which is that the Democratic Party, not Merkley may have succeeded in convincing voters with a few paced ads that Smith is far less bipartisan than he claims, and actually has a 85% voting record in support of the unpopular Bush Administration. The other problem for Smith may have been that his ads that were built on proving bipartisanship with Barack Obama on a increased fuel mileage bill that may have hurt part of Smith's support among the conservatives of his own Republican Party. Other Oregon voters, may have felt like they were hoodwinked by Smith who portrayed himself as so bipartisan when the Democratic Party ad may have hurt this image. Merkley by comparison has managed to portray himself as something of a political moderate or even tough on crime in some ads that show him as a leader to crack down on Internet predators. Somehow, quietly Merkley has managed to slip past Smith and raise his position against Smith by spending a lot less money.

Once again, the Smith campaign could find itself in a position of adding too much drama to the 2008 election by spending too much money on ads, running ads that turn off voters more than attract them, and running too many negative ads.

Gordon Smith has always been very honest, forthright and very easy for Oregon voters to access. Smith actually takes the time to write back a personal reply to everyone who writes him. And he managed to create a winning moderate conservative image similar to that of Oregon's legendary Mark Hatfield. In a great many ways, Smith created enough achievements and enough bipartisanship that probably a majority of Oregon voters would re-elect him. But his campaign could get in the way once again.


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