US Sen: Merkley approval skyrockets

Carla Axtman

I'm a huge fan of US Senator Jeff Merkley. Looks like the rest of Oregon is finally starting to catch up with me.

According to a new poll released by Public Policy Polling, Merkley's popularity is on the rise. In addition, Governor John Kitzhaber is also well positioned against potential Republican challengers in the state.

Public Policy Polling:

Kitzhaber and Merkley have both become more popular over the second half of this year. Kitzhaber's approval rating is a +9 spread at 50/41. That's up 3 points from June when it was +6 at 45/39. Merkley's seen a more dramatic improvement in his standing. On our last poll he was at just a +3 approval spread (37/34) but now he's improved 12 points to +15 (44/29). Those are the best approval numbers we've found for him since he took office.

There are two Republicans who could be competitive with Kitzhaber and Merkley if they decided to mount 2014 campaigns: former Senator Gordon Smith and Congressman Greg Walden. Smith would trail Kitzhaber 47-42 and Merkley 47-43. That 4 point lead for Merkley over Smith is nearly identical to his 3 point win over him in 2008. Walden seems an incredibly unlikely candidate given his new leadership role but he would also come within single digits of both candidates, trailing Kitzhaber 49-40 and Merkley 47-42. Even if it's not this time Walden is probably the Republicans' best hope for winning a statewide office any time in the future- he has a +18 favorability at 39/21 and is even seen positively by Democrats at 32/24.

To his credit, Merkley has had a number of high profile policy stories lately, not the least of which is his prominent leadership role on filibuster reform. That +12 points is a nice bump for Merkley. He's one of those "head-down" guys who isn't big on taking a lot of credit for the work. It's nice to see Oregonians noticing him anyway.

The thing about Walden is, he's never had to undergo any serious scrutiny in a statewide challenge. My guess is once people get a hard look at his voting record and the stuff he's supported, those numbers would sink like a stone.

Polling also shows US Senator Ron Wyden continues to be widely popular in Oregon. He holds a 57/24 approval rating. That +33 net approval ties him for 10th most popular Senator in the nation.

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    Well deserved kudos to Sen. Merkley! I am hoping he is successful in helping get filibuster reform passed in Jan.

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    I have contacted Senator Merkley's office at least three times about different issues. One was a fairly obscure issue involving licensing of Tax professionals that obviously wasn't on most people's radar. Each and every time I contacted the Senator I have received a personal phone call from someone on the Senator's staff as well as an email. I am very impressed with his service in the Senate so far.

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    The amazing thing about Sen. Jeff is that he hit the ground running in '09 and almost immediately had an impact. He deals with national and world affairs on a daily basis, but is still that friendly East Portland guy who truly cares about his constiuents.

    I am a little amused at the pundit blathering on national talk shows about the Senate Banking Committee. The pundits seem to think that the new progressive force, Sen-Elect Elizabeth Warren, will be balanced out by Blue Dog Sen. Joe Manchin of WV. Hmmm, there's a guy named Merkley from Oregon that'll be in the Committee room, too.

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