Oregon state Sen. Alan Bates is "seriously considering" running for U.S. Senate against a powerful, but also vulnerable, sitting incumbent, Gordon Smith, R-Ore.




Let's set the record straight.




When a politician says he is "seriously considering," he means he is running unless, after making these intentions known, his own party turns so hard on him that he has no choice but to seriously stop considering a run. In effect, the phrase should be read to mean, "Heck yeah I'm running, sounds like fun but I've left this little loophole over there just in case I need to duck out and not totally flush my credibility and career down the toilet."




On paper, Bates is an excellent candidate for higher office. He's a combat veteran from the Vietnam War, a successful physician and a veteran of state office who carved a successful niche in the Republican-controlled House; not to mention whose victory in the Senate helped give control back to the Democrats.




Bates has carried significant legislation during this session, most notably comprehensive health care reform, an issue that is sure to remain among the top political priorities in the upcoming election season.




Furthermore, Bates is on the record as being opposed to the Iraq War. It's a stance that carries a lot of weight coming from a veteran's mouth. Similar upstart, lower-profile candidates &

James Web of Virginia comes to mind &

did very well in 2006 against Republican incumbents.




So that is the good news, and it is not bad.




The bad news, however, is significant. Smith is so formidable that he consistently beat a well-known Democrat in a very blue state &

Secretary of State Bill Bradley comes to mind.




Smith is formidable enough that all of the major Democrats from the state &

John Kitzhaber, Peter Defazio and Earl Blumenhauer come to mind &

spurned determined recruitment efforts from the national Democratic Party.




Smith has also made significant adjustments since the 2006 election, most notably becoming an outspoken critic of the Iraq War. A strong candidate will make issue of Smith's strongly partisan voting record before the Democrats domination in 2006, but the fact remains, Smith's recent conversion on many issues will appeal to moderate voters necessary for victory.




Furthermore, Bates is from tiny Southern Oregon, not exactly a launching pad of votes or money from which to mount a serious statewide challenge.




Finally, in Bates' Senate victory, the Republican money ran several attack ads against him on personal issues, most notably a rather nasty divorce and a child custody battle. A fevered-pitch national battle where control of the U.S. Senate hangs in the balance will only bring more nastiness, scrutiny and personal attacks.




Let's not kid ourselves. Bates versus Smith looks as if it would be a Republican landslide to any political pundit outside of the Rogue Valley. But so did several races in 2006 in places like Montana, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania, where if the Democratic candidates believed the pundits a race would have never started.




History was made in 2006 by people like Alan Bates.




So on the day he stops "seriously considering," and actually starts running, Bates can count on the enthusiastic endorsement of the Ashland Daily Tidings.