Will Oregon be part of the 2014 Senate playing field?

In my post about Republicans expanding the number of Senate seats in play this year, I did not include Oregon in the potentially expanded playing field. But a savvy reader suggests that Oregon may be in play.

The seat in question is held by Sen. Jeff Merkley. Hardly a powerhouse, this first-termer was elected in 2008 by only 3 percentage points and failed to capture 50 percent of the vote.

Merkley voted for Obamacare, of course, and has been one of its staunchest defenders. As Michael Warren of the Weekly Standard points out, quoting The Oregonian, Merkley served up his own version of the “if you like your insurance plan you could keep it” pledge. He told constituents that under Obamacare “you would have the choice of sticking with the plan you have.”

It might seem surprising that Obamacare is highly toxic in a liberal state like Oregon, until one realizes how badly the rollout was botched in that state. Warren has the details:

The state’s insurance exchange website, Cover Oregon, has been plagued with worse technical glitches than the federal exchange. Since December, two top Cover Oregon officials, including the program’s director, have resigned. The day after the state’s enrollment deadline, Cover Oregon announced that just about 20,000 people had enrolled in private plans, far below initial projections and fewer than the 150,000 who had enrolled instead in Oregon’s Medicaid program.

Meanwhile, state officials announced in October that the individual plans of around 150,000 Oregonians would be canceled because they did not meet Obamacare requirements.

Who will run against Merkley? One possibility is Monica Wehby, a Portland pediatric neurosurgeon. She raised more than $500,000 in the last quarter of 2013, nearly all of it in November and December. Her personal contribution was only $5,200. Solid fundraising alone doesn’t make one a credible candidate, but a candidate cannot be credible without solid fundraising.

At this point, Merkley is the clear favorite over Wehby or any other Republican opponent. But a recent poll (admittedly by a Republican affiliated organization) found that only 33 percent of his constituents believes he deserves reelection. Thus, it’s not fanciful to believe that the 2014 playing field might come to include Oregon.

JOHN adds: See also my post on Cover Oregon here.

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