Oregon Republican Gordon Smith has privately conceded the US Senate race this morning to his opponent, Democrat Jeff Merkley, the Oregonian reports after an excruciatingly sluggish ballot count. The final margin was within thousands of votes. Late counting of ballots from the Portland area, which is overwhelmingly liberal, put Merkley into the lead.
Merkley’s win gives Oregon two Democratic senators for the first time in 40 years, and strengthens the Senate Democrats’ chances for a 60-seat majority. Merkley spent most of yesterday fielding calls from anxious senators, who contributed millions to the campaign, looking for updated counts. Merkley plans to give a victory speech later today in Portland.