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It's Dangerous in the Middle of the Road 

Gordon Smith is tacking hard toward the center as he seeks his third senatorial term from increasingly blue Oregon, and that has at least some

Gordon Smith is tacking hard toward the center as he seeks his third senatorial term from increasingly blue Oregon, and that has at least some of the state's Republicans grumbling.

"I Am Coyote" on the NW Republican blog notes that Smith is taking part today in a discussion about domestic partner benefits in Washington, DC sponsored by the Center for American Progress Action Fund, which describes itself as "a progressive think tank dedicated to improving the lives of Americans through ideas and action." Other participants include Madeleine Albright, secretary of state under Bill Clinton, and Wisconsin Democratic Rep. Tammy Baldwin.

Smith, a Mormon, is no supporter of gay marriage - in fact he's voted a couple of times in favor of a constitutional ban on it. But apparently "Coyote" is nervous just because he's appearing on the same podium with the likes of Albright, Baldwin and CAPAF President John Podesta, a former Clinton chief of staff.

"I don't know the relationship that Sen. Gordon Smith has with [CAPAF] but they have given him his own webpage on their site," he writes. (Actually it's just a page with biographical information about him; Albright and Baldwin have them too.) "I also noticed that on the front page of the CAPAF website ... they declare that nuclear power is not the answer and let's not forget that Sen. Smith voted in favor of 'cap and trade' [legislation to combat global warming] last week. Kinda makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside doesn't it?"

The Republican "base" in Oregon is far to the right of Smith on many issues, and while it's hard to believe any of them will vote for Democrat Jeff Merkley, their doubts about Smith's ideological purity combined with a lackluster candidate at the top of the Republican ticket -- who also doesn't inspire much affection among the far right -- could inspire quite a few of them to sit this one out.

As populist pundit Jim Hightower puts it: "The only things you find in the middle of the road are yellow lines and dead armadillos." Could Gordon Smith be roadkill in November?

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