With pediatric neurosurgeon Monica Wehby's Republican nomination in Oregon, national GOP strategists believe they have pulled another state onto the Senate playing field. But she still starts the general election as a considerable underdog against Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley.
Wehby, a first-time candidate, does not have a legislative voting record to be dissected, but she faced a series of dramatic headlines about police reports and allegations of harassment from a former husband and boyfriend that came to light in the final days of the primary.
While Wehby is recovering from the Republican race, Merkley is using his financial advantage to hit the airwaves to define himself (in a 30-second ad titled “Fighter”) and to define Wehby as a national Republican (in a 30-second ad titled “Republican Agenda").
Wehby still has to prove that she has the candidate and fundraising skills necessary to knock off an incumbent senator in a state that leans Democratic. But Merkley can’t put his re-election on cruise control either.
Wehby’s nomination doesn’t guarantee that the National Republican Senatorial Committee or other GOP outside groups will spend money in Oregon. But had Wehby lost, it would have virtually guaranteed that those groups would not have spent in the race in the general election.
We’re changing our Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rating of the race from Safe for Democrats to Democrat Favored.
We’ll see whether Democrats can damage Wehby’s brand enough to make her unelectable before we even get to the fall. Or see if this race develops into a more serious contest.