A new statewide poll in Oregon indicates that in one month, Harry Lonsdale, a businessman who took on Sen. Mark O. Hatfield (R-Ore.) because no other Democrat would, moved from being a decided underdog -- trailing by more than 30 percentage points -- to a threatening challenger, thanks in part to a series of television ads that portrayed Hatfield as out of touch with the concerns of Oregonians.
Democrat Barbara Roberts, seeking to succeed Oregon Gov. Neil Goldschmidt (D), who is retiring, pulled even with her Republican rival Dave Frohnmayer, according to the late September poll commissioned by the Oregonian in Portland.
The poll showed Lonsdale, making his first run for public office, with 43 percent support, while Hatfield, a 24-year Senate veteran, had 49 percent.
Hatfield's campaign is quick to point out that the survey was taken while Lonsdale was in the midst of a heavy television advertising campaign and that Hatfield, who has been in Washington since Labor Day, was just starting to air his commercials. Lonsdale's ads blasted Hatfield on his environmental position, his opposition to abortion and his contributions from political action committees.
Hatfield plans to return to Oregon Tuesday but has given no indication that he will adopt a more aggressive campaign style. So far, not only has Hatfield refused to debate Lonsdale, he also has refused to mention his challenger's name.
Frohnmayer, the state attorney general and way out front in fund-raising, has 44 percent support to 43 percent for Roberts, Oregon's secretary of state. The poll's margin of error was plus or minus 4 percentage points. A month earlier, Roberts was seven points back.
In contrast to what happened in the Senate race, Frohnmayer did not gain any support from a major advertising campaign that included attacks on Roberts's record on crime. Nor did he lose any support over Roberts's ads that attacked his record. Instead, Roberts, according to the survey, gained ground among undecided voters.
Independent Al Mobley, running on a conservative platform, could prove to be a deciding factor in the gubernatorial race. In the poll, Mobley has 7 percent support, almost all of it from Republicans.