A poll released by Public Policy Polling on Thursday shows that Democrats are way ahead of their Republican opponents in Oregon’s major races this year. The Democratic candidates for US Senate and Governor, both incumbents, hold nearly insurmountable double-digit leads at this point. Their Republican opponents will have extremely tough climbs in order to make these races competitive. Also, the two GOP candidates face difficult obstacle to overcome in the months ahead.
In the Senate race, Democratic incumbent Jeff Merkley holds a huge 14-point lead over his opponent, Dr. Monica Wehby. Currently, Merkley is ahead 50% – 36% with nearly 15% undecided. While there are still a number of people who have yet to make a decision in this race, and it is always possible for voters to change their mind, it never bodes well for an opponent when the incumbent is already at the 50% threshold. The GOP was hoping Wehby would be a potentially tough matchup for Merkley due to her opposition to the Affordable Care Act. The health care law’s popularity is mixed in the reliably blue state due mostly to problems with the state’s online exchange. The state eventually had to switch to the federal marketplace due to the issues suffered by its own website.
However, late in Wehby’s GOP primary campaign against Rep. Jason Conger (R-OR), reports came out that Wehby had allegedly harassed and stalked both her ex-husband and an ex-boyfriend. Apparently, the police were called in both instances. While Wehby won the GOP primary handily, defeating Conger by 15 points, it seems that this information is taking its toll in the general election campaign. She is upside down when it comes to favorability with voters. 40% hold a negative opinion of her while only 24% see her favorably. 34% do not have an opinion. 59% of those polled said they were aware of the stalking and harassment allegations against Wehby.
Meanwhile, in the Governor’s race, incumbent Democrat John Kitzhaber also holds a huge lead, as he is ahead of Republican opponent Dennis Richardson 49% – 36%, with 15% undecided. The main issue for Richardson appears to be name recognition. Most voters in Oregon are just not familiar with him. Only 19% have a favorable view of him. At the same time, only 19% have a negative view of him. The vast majority (62%) do not have any opinion of him. Richardson’s biggest obstacle is to engage voters and get his name out there. The three-term State Representative has an uphill climb as he’s little known outside of his district and the state legislature.
Obviously, in a state like Oregon, Richardson cannot just rely on normal Democratic/Republican vote splits. President Obama carried the state by 11 points in the 2012 Presidential election. While Kitzhaber is currently is underwater regarding his approval ratings, as 42% approve of his performance against 46% that disapprove, he’ll easily carry the day if Richardson is unable to get people to care about him.