Obamacare Failures May Put Oregon Senate Seat in Play for GOP

Obamacare's failure in Oregon may make incumbent Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) vulnerable this year, and Republicans have two candidates battling for the nomination who will make it difficult for Democrats to frame them in the fall as "cold-hearted" or to play the "war on women" card.

Jason Conger, a pro-life two-term representative in the Oregon State House, has an inspirational life story in a party the mainstream press have lambasted as being the party for rich people who look down on the "47%."

Monica Wehby, the pro-choice frontrunner in the race, as Fox News noted, is a pediatric neurosurgeon who "was the first woman to graduate from UCLA’s neurosurgery program." She also "was an early critic of Obamacare" and even "featured in a 2009 ad opposing the Affordable Care Act."

“It’s a 2,700 page law, 20,000 pages of regulations now -- it’s impossible to work with this law,” Wehby has said. “I think the best way is to repeal and replace with a plan that will actually work.” 

The Oregonian notes that after reports that Wehby's ex-boyfriend, Andrew Miller, accused her of "stalking" and "harassing" him last year, Conger said during a debate last Friday that Wehby's candidacy could pose risks. Adding another wrinkle, Miller, the ex-boyfriend, has donated $31,000 to a super PAC that has unleashed negative attacks against Conger. 

"We can't afford to take a risk of throwing this election away," Conger said while closing Friday's debate, according to the newspaper. 

Merkley's Senate seat may be in play because Cover Oregon, the state's exchange, folded just months after its launch and failed to enroll one person, despite receiving at least $465 million in taxpayer funds. The Portland Tribune observed that "it’s very clear the DSCC is worried about Merkley’s re-election chances."

In one Harper Polling poll last month, Conger actually did better in a head-to-head matchup against Merkley than Wehby by five points, but he has been trailing her in the polls throughout the campaign.

Ben Carson and Mitt Romney have endorsed Wehby, while, as Breitbart News has noted, conservative icon Richard Viguerie, the Oregon Firearms Federation, and Oregon Right to Life have endorsed Conger.

Pro-life groups are also buying commercials on Conger's behalf. 

Breitbart News' Michael Patrick Leahy reported that Conger "was born in California to 'hippie parents,'" and "his mother abandoned the family when he was a child." Conger "grew up with his father, moving from trailer park to trailer park on the wrong side of town." Furthermore, "to escape a dysfunctional family situation, Conger moved out on his own. For a period of time in high school he was homeless":

Working any job he could get, he paid his way through community colleges, and then Humboldt State University in California. After he graduated from Humboldt State, he did well enough on his LSATs to be accepted at Harvard Law School, where he enrolled and graduated three years later.

Even the most strident liberals have conceded that Conger would resonate with regular voters more than Republicans have in the past. But Conger has also warned against Republicans being Democrat-lite.

“You don’t have to be moderate. You don’t have to abandon your principles,” he recently said. “You have to offer an alternative to voters to the incumbent, an alternative that is more attractive, that is credible and speaks to issues that they care about.”

The Obama campaign bought ads in 2012 to ensure that libertarians and Democrats in the state with libertarian sympathies did not give their vote to libertarian candidate Gary Johnson. Democrats and Republican consultants have said Oregon could be more of a battleground in the years ahead because of the libertarian vote, and Merkley, aware of this dynamic, has battled the Obama administration on its NSA surveillance programs. 

Obama won the state by 12 points in 2012 after having won it by 17 in 2008, and his approval ratings have dipped, with less than 50% approving of him at the end of last year. No Republican has been elected statewide in Oregon since 2002. 


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