March 31st, 2008 5:33 pm | by BETH SLOVIC News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, Politics

Updated: Who Do the Republicans Fear Most? A "Tax-Happy" Liberal? Or a "Tax-Happy" Liberal?

Tags: Blog Love
Jeff Merkley's campaign for U.S. Senate showed signs last week it has a quickening pulse and a sense of humor.

In response to the unveiling of a new Republican-backed website (pictured above) that calls Merkley a tax-and-spend liberal, the Portland Democrat's campaign responded gleefully.

What's there to be gleeful about, you ask? A lot, a representative of the Merkley campaign said at the time. After all, if the GOP is taking aim at Merkley—and not Democratic contender Steve Novick—it must be because the Republicans see Merkley as the bigger threat to Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.). Or they think Merkley is the candidate most likely to win the May 20 Democratic primary.

Today, however, the National Republican Senatorial Committee launched a new website aimed at Novick. What gives?

"As the campaign progresses we see that voters are responding to Steve Novick," says NRSC spokeswoman Rebecca Fisher. "So we decided to dedicate one of our sites to him."


Only the splash page is up and running now. But you've got to give the GOP some credit for creativity. reads: "As Tax-Happy As Merkley ... Only Funnier." Apparently, the Republicans are funny, too! Gold star, GOP!

Merkley spokesman Matt Canter was not immediately available for comment (as he was attending the Washington County Democratic party forum.) But I put this question to him in an email just moments ago: Do you think the Republicans are tweaking Merkley with a Novick site, perhaps ramping up rabid Novick fans to join in on the attacks against the House Speaker? In other words, is the site more evidence they think Merkley is the frontrunner?

Novick spokesman Jake Weigler takes the GOP's Fisher at her word and says the new website is actually evidence the Republicans consider the Democratic primary an "extremely competitive race." "Clearly," Weigler says, "there's been a re-evaluation about where we are in this race."

We'll update the post with Canter's response to my earlier question.

Now, here it is: "Yes, the Republicans love the way Novick has insulted Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton more viscerally viciously than even John McCain," Canter says. "The NRSC would love for Novick and Smith to turn the general election into a contest of who thought Barack Obama was a bigger fraud and who thought Hillary Clinton was a bigger traitor. That's not what they'll get with Jeff Merkley."
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