In writing about most of this year's Senatorial races, I chose to use interesting examples, closely run races where odd things happened in the campaign or where the result was in doubt up until election night. But like in most election cycles, most of this year's races followed predictable trajectories with predictable results. Sometimes, looking at the normal is just as important as looking at the unusual.
Jeff Merkley first came to office in the 2008 election cycle by unseating Gordon Smith. Oregon had been trending steadily leftward for a few decades, and Gordon Smith, a liberal Republican senator, finally found himself on the wrong side of the demographic shift. Going into the 2014 election cycle, Republicans had held no statewide office in Oregon in six years, and none of the usual candidates, such as state legislators or mayors, came forward for the Republican nomination. The primary was won by Monica Wehby, a pediatric neurosurgeon with no previous political experience. What could be expected in a race with an incumbent in line with his state's ideology running against a newcomer with no political experience is an easy victory. When Wehby ran a disorganized campaign and did things such as now showing up for interviews with the media, Merkley's course to victory seemed even more assured.
And predictably, that is what happened. On election night, Merkley followed the predictable pattern in Oregon politics of winning heavily in Portland and Eugene, and winning by narrower margins in the Portland suburbs and the Willamette Valley. He lost in the sparsely populated counties of Eastern Oregon, but not by enough to put much of a dent in his margin. The final margin was 55-37, a comfortable margin for a midterm election.
Analysis of elections is often split between demographic views and campaign-centric views. However, as this election shows, the two often feed into each other. While it is unlikely that any Republican candidate could win in Oregon at the present, a more experienced candidate could have narrowed the margin down. However, experienced politicians don't want to risk their careers by running in a campaign they don't feel they can win. As a series of inexperienced candidates loses, the state becomes more accustomed to only having candidates from one party run for office. Thus, in Oregon, demographics and the actions of candidates have fedback to result in Oregon becoming a solidly Democratic state.
Jeff Merkley Democratic 797,096 55.64%
Monica Wehby Republican 529,978 37.00%
Mike Montchalin Libertarian 43,804 3.06%
Christina Jean Lugo Pacific Green 31,450 2.20%
James E. Leuenberger Constitution 23,651 1.65%
Write-ins - 6,495 0.45%
Source: US Election Atlas