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Is Wehby the Last, Best Hope for Oregon GOP?

Wednesday, September 03, 2014



In politics, Margaret Thatcher remarked, there are “no final victories, no final defeats.”


But for Oregon Republicans, the ongoing era of big-ticket smack-downs must feel permanent. Those heady days of Atiyeh, Hatfield and Packwood are ancient memories. The state hasn’t elected a Republican governor since 1982. 

Even the GOP’s most recent electoral outlier, Gordon Smith, has now been gone six years – a victim of the anti-Bush wave that swept the nation in 2008, and lingers in Oregon still.

Yet every two years, the Oregon GOP still finds a few qualified candidates for higher office. Political ambition often requires the suspension of disbelief, after all. And for a time during these campaigns, one or two of the top GOP candidates – usually successful businessmen or lawyers with no political experience other than access to sizeable political contributions – seem like they might just be the ones to break the cycle of loss. 

Voters and donors alike are told why a particular Republican candidate is the one who will, finally, surmount both the huge voter registration disadvantage and the Democrats’ sophisticated get-out-the-vote machine.

The political graveyard in Oregon is filled with these sure-bet GOP candidates.

As history’s trend has not been kind to GOP candidates, the question must then be asked: Can a Republican ever win in Oregon again? 

The 2014 U.S. senate contest between Monica Wehby and Jeff Merkley will provide the answer.

Wehby has challenges

Wehby has her challenges for sure. She’s hired the best political fundraiser on the west coast, but her campaign team has been dismal. Team Wehby mismanaged debates from the start. They failed to prepare or trust their candidate, and therefore made her learning curve much steeper as she heads toward one of this year’s most hotly contested races nationwide. 

And the handling of revelations concerning Wehby’s domestic challenges? Well, let’s just say that her campaign’s hide-and-go-seek response ought to be used as a campaign school case study of what not to do.

Alas, such are the risks for a novice candidate and neophyte campaign team. They don’t know what they don’t know.

And yet, Monica Wehby provides the best hope for victory that Oregon Republicans have seen in a generation. She’s talented, accomplished, appealing. Nice. The kind of person you would want to help care for your ailing child. Perhaps the kind of person you would send to help care for an ailing country.

Wehby will raise the funds necessary to trumpet her virtues. And because she is whip smart, she may very well acquire political acumen in time for autumn’s slugfest.

Her opponent, Jeff Merkley, is an accidental senator. In office because he picked the right moment to run against a guy who happened to be in the same party as George W. Bush.

Sure, Merkley has made himself a hero of the far left. He’s done this primarily through his fervent efforts to limit debating rights for the minority party. But this is exactly why he will always be a fringe voice. Regardless of how long he serves, Merkley’s stature will remain that of a junior senator. 

He may make his mark with certain narrow interests, but the odds of Merkley ever achieving significant political influence or crossover appeal are long at best. 

So here we are. In one corner, an unaccomplished first-term senator with all the advantages of statewide party registration and machine politics. In the other, a political novice pediatric brain surgeon who looks and sounds a lot different than any recent Republican candidate in Oregon.

For my money, these variables make this match an even bet come Nov. 4 - perhaps the best odds Oregon Republicans have seen in decades. 

Monica Wehby may not be Oregon’s Iron Lady. Not yet at least.  But given the tide of history, she’s the last, best hope for Republicans. 

If she can’t do it, it can’t be done.

 Scott Bruun is a fifth-generation Oregonian and recovering politician. He lives with his family in the 'burbs, yet dutifully commutes to Portland every day where he earns his living on the fifth floor of Big Pink.


Related Slideshow: The Eight Political Types

What political type are you? The Pew Research Center says most Americans fall into eight groups. Can you find your match?

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Steadfast Conservatives

Republicans who regularly attend religious services (55 percent attend at least weekly) and are very politically engaged. Steadfast Conservatives are mostly male (59 percent), non-Hispanic white (87 percent), and hold very negative thoughts towards immigrants/immigration.

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Photo Credit: Denise Cross Photography,Day 36/366.....I Voted, Feb 5 036/366, Live look
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Business Conservatives

If you are an individualist who invests in the stock market and believes the government is doing a bad job, then you might be a Business Conservative. Unlike Steadfast Conservatives, Business Conservatives believe that immigrants strengthen the country. Most Business Conservatives live in suburbs with 45 percent earning $75,000 a year or more. 

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Photo Credit: "Photos NewYork1 032". Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - Live look (image cropped)
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Solid Liberals

Educated liberals who are optimistic about the nation’s future and who continually support President Obama (with 84 percent approving his job performance) and, you guessed it, faithfully vote Democrat. Unlike Business Conservatives who prefer the suburbs, 45 percent of Solid Liberals prefer to live in a city.

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Photo Credit: "President Barack Obama, 2012 portrait crop" by Official White House Photo by Pete Souza 
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Young Outsiders

Are you a person that dislikes both Republicans and Democrats? Young Outsiders may lean towards the Republican Party, but heavily support the environment and liberal social policies, unlike their conservative counterparts. Also they are one of the youngest typology groups, with 30 percent under the age of 30. Young Outsiders are 73 percent non-Hispanic whites who think "poor people today have it easy because they can get government benefits without doing anything in return." 

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Photo Credit: Tucker Carlson, Tucker Carlson's Twitter Profile
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Hard-Pressed Skeptics

Like Young Outsiders, Hard-Pressed Skeptics doubt Democrats and Republicans, but lean towards the Democratic Party view, although fewer than half approve of Obama’s job performance. Difficult financial circumstances have left Hard-Pressed Skeptics to believe that “the poor have hard lives because government benefits don’t go far enough to help them live decently.”

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Photo Credit: By Dorothea Lange, Farm Security Administration / Office of War Information / Office of Emergency Management / Resettlement Administration [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons (image cropped) 
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Next Generation Left

You might just be a Next Generation Left if you're liberal on social issues: abortion, same-sex marriage and affirmative action. However, Next Generation Leftists deny the belief that racial discrimination is a barrier to success for racial minorities.

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Photo Credit: Jfruh at the English language Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 Live look (image cropped)
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Faith and Family Left

This group is highly diverse with 30 percent African-American and 18 percent foreign born. Faith and Family Left want a greater government role in programs such as aid for the poor. However, they are conservative when it comes to social issues, like opposing same sex marriage and legalizing marijuana, probably because the majority put religion and family first. 

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Photo Credit: Vinoth Chandar "play of light in santhome church" Live look (image cropped) 
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If you keep saying “I don’t get it, I don’t see myself as any of the types,” you might just be a Bystander, which means you're the person on the sidelines. You're more interested in celebrities like Jay-Z and Beyonce (are they really getting a divorce?) than government and politics. Noteworthy that Bystanders don't registered to vote, but do love the outdoors.  Some 66 percent of bystanders consider themselves an “outdoor person.”

Learn more

Photo Credit: By idrewuk (originally posted to Flickr as Hello hubbie!) [CC-BY-2.0 Live look, via Wikimedia Commons

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