PORTLAND, Ore., Oct. 14 (UPI) -- U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith is trying to distance himself from the Republican Party perhaps more than any other GOP senator seeking re-election, observers say.
Smith, R-Ore., is being challenged by Jeff Merkley, the Democratic House speaker of the Oregon Legislature.
Smith has angered some Republicans by running television commercials suggesting he and Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama agree on a range of issues, The New York Times reported Tuesday. He also says he shares views with U.S. Sens. Edward Kennedy and John Kerry, both D-Mass.
"Everybody's an independent in an election year," said Stuart Rothenberg, a political analyst who tracks congressional races, "but he's not merely emphasizing his independence; he's trying to link himself with Obama in front of voters."
The Times reported Merkley is benefiting from a voter shift to the Democratic Party.
"The momentum with Merkley is because he's got a 'D' by his name," said Tim Hibbitts, a pollster in Oregon. "He's not winning because of his personality. He's winning because in this particular state in this particular year, the Republican brand has gone to hell."