The conventional wisdom advises that when a political candidate is trailing, what he should do is go negative against his opponent - and it looks like Jeff Merkley is following that advice.
Since a KATU poll showed him trailing Steve Novick, his rival for the Oregon Democratic Senate nomination, by 12 points, Oregon House Speaker Merkley has come out with a couple of attack ads against Novick focusing on some harsh words he's said about both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
One ad quotes Novick describing Obama (in 2006) as "just another captive-of-special-interests fraud who doesn't ... deserve to be hailed as some great Kenya-Kansas hope" and "a complete sellout to the military-industrial complex ... a politician sorely lacking in fiscal responsibility." In the other one, Novick is quoted as saying, among other things, that Clinton "hasn't said a single inspiring thing on any subject since, oh, 1994."
A third, funnier attack video uses footage of Merkley and Novick being interviewed by the editors of Willamette Week. At the beginning, Merkley is asked who he'd vote for if he wasn't in the primary race.
"I'd vote for Steve," he replies without hesitation.
Then the interviewer asks Novick the same question. Novick replies he'd vote for John Frohnmayer, the independent candidate running against Republican Sen. Gordon Smith.
"He's not in this room," the interviewer says. Then there's a long pause while the Jeopardy theme plays. "I have a very hard time answering that," Novick finally says.
Interviewer: "You're going to have to make a hell of a lot harder decisions when you're on the floor of the Senate."
Long, LONG pause while Jeopardy music plays again. Finally, Novick: "I'd wait several weeks, because I want to see whether Speaker Merkley continues to run the kind of campaign that he's run against me." He then cites several examples of Merkley using negative tactics against him.
"OK, given what you know now," the interviewer interrupts.
"Given what I know now," Novick says, "um, I would vote for Candy Neville," a Eugene real estate dealer.
If the Merkley team is adopting its own version of Clinton's "kitchen sink" strategy against Obama, they might want to reflect that Clinton's relentless attacks seem to have hurt her a lot more than her opponent.