Oregon: Smith Is Floated as Wyden Challenger

Posted February 13, 2009 at 5:56pm

The new chairman of the state Republican Party was telling Beaver State reporters and political bloggers last week that he had just met with former Sen. Gordon Smith (R) and that Smith may challenge Sen. Ron Wyden (D) in 2010.

“It’s certainly one of his options and he’s going to take a hard look at it,” Bob Tiernan told the Oregonian.

Smith, who was narrowly defeated last year by now-Sen. Jeff Merkley (D), would almost certainly be the Republicans’ strongest possible challenger to Wyden, and a Smith-Wyden race would set up a rematch of their 1996 special election contest, which Wyden won. Smith then won an open seat later that year.

But political insiders see the possibility of Smith running against Wyden as minimal at best. Not only is Oregon getting more and more Democratic, but Wyden is rock-solid in the polls. He and Smith worked well together, and they essentially had a nonaggression pact when it came to their political campaigns.