In a development that has to make Republicans everywhere a little jittery, Rasmussen Reports has just released a poll showing that Jeff Merkley has narrowly pulled ahead of incumbent Republican Sen. Gordon Smith.
Merkley's lead is only a scant two points, 43% to 41%. But it's the first time the Democrat has been ahead, and the lowest number for Smith since Rasmussen began polling the race back in February.
"While the advantage [for Merkley] is not statistically significant, it is noteworthy for an incumbent senator to receive such low levels of support at this point in a campaign," according to Rasmussen's website.
Just last month Smith had a nine-point lead, 47% to 38%. "In the four previous months, Smith has been narrowly ahead, but he has never crossed the 50% mark, below which an incumbent is generally viewed as vulnerable," Rasmussen wrote.
Smith also suffered a significant drop in his favorability rating: "In June, he was viewed favorably by 58% of Oregon voters and unfavorably by 38%. Now only 53% regard him favorably, and 45% see him unfavorably. By contrast, Merkley's favorability number is largely unchanged from last month at 51%, but those who regard him unfavorably have dropped from 37% in June to 34% now.
"Smith also has lost ground in his own party and among Democrats, 23% of whom supported him last month. Now only 14% of Democrats do. In June, 79% of Republican voters favored the GOP incumbent, but now only 72% feel that way. Democrats appear to be coming home to Merkley, who had the support of only 66% of his party's voters in June, but that number is up now to 75%."
Smith campaign spokeswoman Lindsay Gilbride told politickeror.com, "These are questionable numbers from a questionable pollster."
The Eye is not sure Gilbride thinks is "questionable" about Rasmussen; according to Wikipedia, "Reports by Slate Magazine and The Wall Street Journal found that Rasumussen Reports was one of the most accurate polling firms for the 2004 United States presidential election and 2006 United States general elections, respectively."
But we guess that when you're the spokeswoman you gotta say something.
Speculation among the on-line political junkies is that Smith's efforts to portray himself as a bipartisan moderate - he even went so far as to invoke the name of Barack Obama - haven't succeeded in winning over Democrats and have alienated portions of the Republican base.