Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Frohnmayer's departure helps Merkley

I wanted to believe my old college friend John Frohnmayer when he said that, running as an independent, he could attract enough votes in a three-way race to take Gordon Smith's senate seat.

I wanted to believe him, but I never really did, nor did a lot of other folks it seems. At least not enough with money to stake his candidacy.

And that's why John announced today that he's dropping out of the U.S Senate race — to the relief of Democratic candidate Jeff Merkley and Democrats in general.

John looked like a spoiler for the Democrats from the git-go. His candidacy was a gift to Smith, though a few thought that John, as a former Republican from down state, would peel away Smith support. But as John staked out positions to the left of Merkley and his primary opponent Steve Novick, the Democrats became more threatened by the Frohnmayer candidacy.

It's hard to say it, but John's campaign had a decidedly Naderesque taint to it.

Frohnmayer, of course, argued otherwise. He had better name recognition than either of his opponents, thanks to his brother Dave, president of the University of Oregon. One poll three months ago, had John running ahead of Smith and either Democratic primary candidate.

John also described Oregonians as independents at heart. Remember maverick Wayne Morse? Frohnmayer contended that Oregonians know two-party politics is a fool's game.

True perhaps, but Oregonians also know that the two parties have the game rigged — hard-wired and greased (read "lobbyist funded") to keep them in power.

That hard reality quickly set in for me, even though I believed, and still believe, that John — bright, articulate, principled — would make a far better senator than either Smith or Merkley.

Fool's game or not, a whole lot of us — Democrats, independents and, yes, Republicans — want Smith out.

Tonight, with John no longer in the race, that prospect seems a lot more likely.

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