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« NJ: Lautenberg +11 | Blog Home Page | MS: Wicker +5 »

OR: Merkley (D) +2

Further evidence that money isn't everything in politics: Despite a big fundraising lead and a moderate record by Oregon standards, two-term Republican Senator Gordon Smith faces the fight of his life. A new poll conducted for his Democratic rival's campaign shows he might even be trailing.

The poll, conducted by Benenson Strategy Group for state House Speaker Jeff Merkley, surveyed 702 likely voters between 9/7-9 for a margin of error of +/- 3.7%. Smith and Merkley were tested, along with Dave Brownlow, the Constitution Party nominee.

General Election Matchup
Merkley......43 (+5 from last, 8/08)
Smith........41 (-6)
Brownlow......6 (+2)

Smith led by nine points in the last Benenson poll for Merkley's campaign. But with national Democrats hammering his ties to the Bush administration and other unpopular positions he's taken, just 32% of Oregonians now say the senator is doing an excellent or good job. A whopping 61% say he's doing fair or poor.

Smith has been running his own ads touting his bipartisan work with Democrats like Barack Obama and John Kerry, focusing so much on the Democratic presidential nominee that Obama had to issue a statement reiterating his support for Merkley.

But the early Democratic money could prove decisive in Oregon. Smith won his 2002 re-election race by defining his opponent, then-Secretary of State Bill Bradbury, early and burying him with Smith's financial advantage. This year, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is stepping in to help Merkley after a bruising primary that cost him much of his campaign account.