Oregon's Gordon Smith has become the fourth Republican Senator to disavow John McCain's robocalls linking Barack Obama to Bill Ayers.
In a statement to the Huffington Post, Smith for Senate press secretary Lindsay Gilbride said:
"They [the Ayers calls] are not taking place in Oregon and Senator Smith does not condone these sort of calls. Negative robocalls are not appropriate and have no place in campaigns."
The McCain campaign's tactics have come under heavy fire in recent days, including from Republican Senators Norm Coleman, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins. Vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin even acknowledged that voters were becoming "irritated" by the onslaught of campaign calls. Meanwhile, McCain himself was forced to defend the tactic in a recent interview, saying "that robocall is exactly accurate."
Even as the campaign tactic has courted disdain from fellow Republicans, it's not clear that the robo calls have helped McCain's campaign. A CNN poll released this week showed that most Americans now believe that McCain's attacks against Obama are unfair.
It's not hard to figure why Smith's camp made the move to officially distance itself from the McCain robocalls: Obama is on pace to handily carry the state on November 4.
Meanwhile, according to Pollster.com's average of surveys in Oregon, the two-term Smith is running behind his challenger, Democratic State House Speaker Jeff Merkley.
So far in the race, Smith has repeatedly referenced Obama positively in his advertisements, suggesting that he has worked closely with the Democratic nominee in the Senate. Now, by distancing himself from the Ayers robocalls, it appears the vulnerable Republican is banking on a strategy of not offending Obama voters.
UPDATE: Jeff Merkley's campaign responds to Sen. Smith's new position, describing it as hypocritical in a statement:
"Gordon Smith is a complete hypocrite. Just like John McCain, Gordon Smith and Karl Rove are using robocalls to attack Jeff Merkley. On top of that, Smith and the Oregon Republican Party are paying this company (FLS) thousands of dollars for undisclosed services. Smith should immediately fire this group of Bush-Rove hacks and demand that Freedom's Watch get out of Oregon."
The Merkley campaign cites FEC reports showing that FLS-Connect, the company in charge of McCain's robocalls, has been paid nearly $100,000 by Smith's campaign in the last year.