One of the knocks on Jeff Merkley during the Democratic senatorial primary campaign was that he was too bland and mild-mannered to run the kind of tough campaign needed to knock off an incumbent. Now Merkley seems determined to refute that charge.
After beating Steve Novick in the primary, Merkley hasn't wasted any time in going after Gordon Smith. His first effort is a hard-hitting and clever 30-second video spot attacking the "Smith Myth."
The "Smith Myth," according to Merkley, is that Smith is bipartisan and moderate. "After 12 years of the Smith Myth it's time for real change," the opening screen of the video says.
Then we see a clip from a real Smith ad with Smith saying: "Partisan fighting ... gridlock ... that's Washington's answer to your problems, not mine. I get it. I'm Gordon Smith and I've shown a better way - working independently, working with Democrats and Republicans."
But while Smith talks, cartoon balloons appear above his head saying things like "'Independence' is voting with Bush 90% of the time," "I've cancelled Ron Wyden's vote nearly 1,700 times" and "I endorsed John '100-years-in-Iraq' McCain."
Smith - who has run some pretty nasty ads himself - continues to be vulnerable, according to Democrats. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is touting a pre-primary poll that shows Smith with a dismal 29% job approval rating (barely better than Bush's) and in a virtual dead heat with Merkley, 45% to 43%.
The Merkley campaign is calling this "the first Smith Pop-Up Video," which seems to indicate there will be more. Obviously the Democrats' aim in this campaign - as in all campaigns this year - will be to hang The Most Unpopular President in History around the Republican's neck.