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November 05, 2008

Oregonian calls Senate race for Merkley

The AP was willing to call the Minnesota Senate race for Norm Coleman this morning before withdrawing it hours later.  But the wire service is not willing to call the Oregon Senate race for Democrat Jeff Merkley even though most of the oustanding vote count is from the two of the most liberal counties in the state.

But the Oregonian isn't waiting, and projecting that Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) will lose his Senate seat:

Democrat Jeff Merkley has ousted Republican Gordon Smith from his U.S. Senate seat, The Oregonian projects.

Merkley, a five-term state lawmaker and former Habitat for Humanity director, took advantage of a surge of Democratic support to win a close, bitterly fought battle with Smith, who has served 12 years in Washington.

Despite the closeness of the count, expert number crunchers said they expect Merkley to win. Portland pollster Tim Hibbitts, appearing as an analyst on Fox News(12), outright called the race for Merkley, based primarily on how many votes remain uncounted in Democrat-rich Multnomah County. He stuck by that call this morning.

Neither candidate, however was willing to rule the race over until more votes are tallied.

 A Merkley win would give Democrats a six-seat gain in the Senate (57 seats including Sanders and Lieberman).