Say hello to Senator-elect, Jeff Merkley, who Right Pundits now predicts will defeat incumbent Republican Gordon Smith when all the votes are counted. Smith actually has a slight lead the day after the election, but a county-by-country analysis of the outstanding votes show that Merkley will win by about 50,000 votes.

You can view the returns yourself and come to the same conclusion. Democrats have seldom been ones to count votes quickly, and Oregon is no exception to the rule. The Democrat counties have far more outstanding ballots, particularly the counties of Multnomah and Lane, the largest counties in the state where barely half the votes have been counted. Hat tip to the gloaters at Daily Kos for examining the obvious.

Gordon Smith did nothing to lose this seat. He ran independent of the Bush administration, which was the right move in this liberal-leaning state. Those who think Republicans need to be generically more conservative, ignore the realities on the ground in states like Oregon and Maine. Individuality is the key to winning local elections, but in Smith’s case it wasn’t enough to stem a strong Democrat tide.

As a biography, Jeff Merkley is married with children (2 of them) as the 53-year old Speaker of the House in the Oregon State legislature. He graduated from Stanford University and continued with a Masters at Princeton University. He is a Rubik’s cube expert of all things and races automobiles.

So congratulations to Jeff Merkley for toppling a sitting U.S. Senator. In hardly ever happens without a scandal. You can expect the Democrats to keep this seat for a long, long time.