Earlier this week I pointed how the underfunded, under-covered, under rated Rep. Jason Conger could beat Dr. Monica Wehby in the Republican May primary race for Oregon Senator.
But why should he win it? Why should Republican voters tick his box? The reason is, a Conger nomination helps the Oregon GOP, while a Wehby nomination either does nothing to enhance the party, or actually makes the party seem even smaller.
Lets look at two different scenarios. The first assumes Merkley will handily win the election, regardless of who the Republican challenger is. The second assumes that Merkley is vulnerable.
Merkley will win: Merkley will have an overwhelming advantage in campaign funds. He is the Democratic incumbent in a Democratic State. The most recent national analysts indicate a 99% change he will win. Merkley has done nothing to tarnish his reputation among Oregon Democrats. They love him. In this case, Conger is clearly the best candidate for the Republicans to run.
Conger is a part of Oregon Republican Party leadership, and committed to the long haul. He is relatively young and running a statewide campaign – even a losing one – will enhance his name recognition and steel him for a statewide run in the future. Whether that’s for governor, Secretary of State, or for Walden’s seat, should he retire. And, if Conger can build a centrist/conservative infrastructure for the general election and maintain the key people and ideas he develops, it could counter some moderate/centrist/independent voters perception that the Oregon Republican Party is an Art Robinson lead anti science club of tea party fanatics. A Conger win is party building.
Wehby on the other hand is a parachute candidate. Like Chris Dudley before her, she appears to be selected because a personal interest in politics, a nice resume, some personal wealth, and the ability to raise money from friends. On paper. The perfect candidate. But she has no substantial history with Republican elected politics or building public coalitions. Like Dudley before her when she loses she will go back to her social circle in a wealthy enclave somewhere. Possibly bitter about the hardball tactics of the Democrats and unwilling to run again. A losing Wehby candidacy does nothing for the Oregon Republican Party, and makes it seem desperate as if they have no leadership depth.
If a Merkley win is inevitable, Conger is clearly the best choice for the Republican Party, and for Independents like me who would like to see viable Republican candidates who are not anti science nor think of Ayn Rand as the greatest economist ever.
Merkley is Vulnerable: Merkley’s support of Obamacare make him vulnerable. He is too liberal for rural Oregon and mid terms always favor Republican turnout.
Here, it’s a closer case between the candidates Wehby can make a credible argument that she is more likely to attract independents and moderate/conservative Democrats than is Conger. However, she is also more likely to lose some of the 20%-25% Republican voters who are socially conservative. They may just not vote in the Senate race. So, the question is, while moderate Democrats and Democratic leaners may like Wehby more than Conger, do they like her more than Merkley? Would a vehemently pro choice voter REALLY consider Wehby because she is not an idealogue on social issues? Or more precisely, will she lose more social conservatives than she gains in cross overs?
Conger also has to convince enough Democratic moderate/conservatives and Democratic independent leaners to vote his way. However, he has two advantages. He really does have a voting record that shows he does have concerns about people in need. And, there are a fair number of Democratic and independent voters who are blue collar and socially conservative. The Reagan Democrats are his cross over or swing voters. The challenge for Conger will be, as my prior article stated, his ability to express his social positions in a way that assures voters that drastic changes are not at the top of his To Do list.
If you believe Merkley is a prohibitive favorite, then Conger is the clear choice for the Republican Party. And if you believe Merkley is vulnerable, Conger has just as good of a chance as Wehby, though by a different path.