National and local Republicans are betting that Oregon Rep. Kurt Schrader's vote for a national health care reform bill will make him vulnerable in 2010.
Republicans say the freshman Democrat's vote will cause him problems with moderate and independent voters in the 5th District because the bill further inserts the government into health care and would cost $1.2 trillion.
"Schrader does have a target on his back," Joanna Burgos of the National Republican Congressional Committee in Washington, D.C. said Monday.
Schrader issued a statement Monday saying he thinks his vote for the health care bill and his work on other issues will leave him in "good shape" for his 2010 re-election. Schrader already has more than $460,000 in his campaign kitty, his office said.
Republicans have recruited state Rep. Scott Bruun of West Linn to take on Schrader in the 5th District, which extends from the mid-Willamette Valley to the Portland suburbs and the central Oregon coast.
Bruun said Schrader has tried to paint himself as an advocate of fiscal restraint, but voted in the end to side with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders pushing for a health care reform bill that is "a mistake of massive proportions."
"He voted in lockstep with the farthest left elements of a very liberal Congress," Bruun said Monday.
Portland pollster Tim Hibbitts said he's not surprised that Republicans are teeing off on the health care bill, saying that such criticism helps keep the GOP base energized heading into next year's elections.
However, Hibbitts said it's too early to say whether the health care bill will continue to be a hot topic through the 2010 election season.
"I think the overall state of the economy will be more important," Hibbitts said. "If this economy is not improving by then, then Kurt Schrader and the Democrats could be in a world of trouble" trying to win re-election.
Schrader, a former Democratic state senator, easily won the November 2008 election to claim the congressional seat left open by the retirement of veteran Democratic Rep. Darlene Hooley.
Hibbitts said that while the Democrats have increased their voter registration edge in the 5th District, it's still considered a swing district and that this will be Schrader's first re-election race, when incumbents are considered most vulnerable.