Primary down to one

Before a vote has been cast, the race for the Democratic primary has been successfully whittled down to an unopposed race. State Rep. Jeff Merkley is the nominee.

True, Portland attorney and activist Steve Novick remains passionately in the race &

even earning media attention this week with his call for Congress to push for impeachment of President Bush. But lest anyone actually take Novick seriously, he also issued a series of press releases announcing his new nickname, "Left Hook" Novick, and an attack release on "Gordon Red Ink Smith." If that's not enough to eradicate any hope of consideration, Novick's release is written in honor of International Talk Like A Pirate Day.

Seriously, we can't make this stuff up. Read it for yourself:

"Avast, ye fair people of Oregon and hear these words from our fine new cap'n, 'Left Hook' Novick, who having sailed the harsh seas of politics, hereby calls Gordon "Red Ink" Smith to account to explain his doings.

"'Garrrrr, 'tween giving half our pieces of eight back in tax rebates to the rich and jumping at every new drivelswiggered GOP project that comes along, 'tis no wonder there be no booty in our hold,'" Novick was heard sayin' as he loaded supplies for International Talk Like a Pirate Day. "Methinks it be fine time old 'Red Ink' was retired from command of the good ship Junior Senator from Oregon."

It gets worse, but the point is well made. The campaign has barely begun and Novick is already reaching for gimmicks. Unfortunately, this ill-advised attempt at humor plays on Novick's own misfortune, for he truly does have a hook for a left hand.

Nobody wants to admit that physical characteristics sway voters. But from the days of King Saul to every student body presidential campaign ever hatched, popularity is an undeniable advantage.

Human nature is what it is. Novick's obvious physical attributes &

he's under five feet tall in addition to the hook &

has likely detracted from his credentialed abilities and experience. To date, journalists have chosen to leave this out of stories about his candidacy, perhaps unfairly so. Even the Tidings' profile about Novick failed to mention the first thing a voter will observe. But who wants to make a campaign about such things?

Apparently Novick does. These ill-advised attempts at humor will backfire so strongly he can no longer be considered a serious candidate, if he indeed ever was.

Without a doubt American politicians take themselves far too seriously, playing to stereotypes and sound bytes designed to grab votes for the silliest of reasons. Handlers choose the ties our politicians wear, choose when they should "dress down and look casual" and craft silly photo stops like flipping burgers or kissing babies.

But behind all the veneer is a powerful grain of truth, namely that to be taken seriously, a candidate must convince voters that he or she fits the archetype. Do they look "presidential?" We often ask: Do they sound presidential? Remember Howard Dean's infamous emotional outburst?

In this case, do we believe the candidate is serious enough to represent us in the United States Senate. We ask you:

"'Hear me all pirates, privateers and progressives!" Novick writes, "Join me in sending Gordon Smith to Davy Jones' Locker next November. Vote hook!'"

Vote hook?

The gimmick has drawn attention to Novick's biggest obstacle, namely the superficial things that voters insist don't sway them. We may never know if voters could have seen past a diminutive man with physical limitations. Novick's attempt at humor has likely trivialized his candidacy beyond repair.

Let's move ahead to the general election. This primary is over.

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