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August 25, 2008

Gordon Smith touts anti-war credentials

A handful of Republican senators in Democratic-leaning states — John Sununu of New Hampshire, Norm Coleman of Minnesota, Susan Collins of Maine — have downplayed their party identification and distanced themselves from President Bush in their reelection bids.

But their counterpart, Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.), has taken that strategy to a new level. He has already aired two ads touting his legislative work with the Barack Obama and John Kerry. And now he is up with a new ad portraying himself as a leading critic of the Iraq war.

The ad highlights footage of news anchors talking about how Smith has broken ranks with President Bush over the war in Iraq. It also highlights an emotional floor speech he gave in 2006, where he said he’s “at the end of my rope when it comes to supporting a policy that has our soldiers patrolling the same streets in the same way, being blown up by the same bombs day after day.”

It’s an odd speech to highlight given that violence in Iraq has dropped markedly since he made those comments. And polls suggest that domestic issues — from energy prices to health care — now appear to be more important to voters than the war.

But it clearly shows that Smith is trying to display his independence from President Bush at every possible turn to survive in a state that leans Democratic. Smith is locked in a highly competitive race with Democrat Jeff Merkley.

Smith voted for the Congressional resolution authorizing the Iraq war in 2002, but he turned into one of the war’s leading Republican critics in late 2006. Democrats have accused Smith’s change of heart as politically motivated.