Jeff Merkley campaign attacks Republican colleague as 'Tea Party folk hero'

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Politics,Oregon,2014 Elections,David M. Drucker,Campaigns,PennAve,Jeff Merkley,Ron Johnson,Monica Wehby

The campaign of Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley is criticizing one of his Republican colleagues for being a "Tea Party folk hero."

In a statement aimed at his Republican opponent, pediatric neurosurgeon Monica Wehby, a Merkley staffer criticized Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson.

"If you want an idea of the kind of senator Monica Wehby would be, take a look at who she's brought to Oregon today — Tea Party folk hero Sen. Ron Johnson, who helped shut down the government,” Merkley campaign spokeswoman Lindsey O’Brien said in a statement.

It's a familiar message for Democrats this fall, who are seeking to tie Republicans to the more conservative activists in their base. But in this case, it's not a perfect fit, as Johnson disappointed many in the Tea Party on the shutdown.

The Wisconsin Republican never supported shutting down the government to block implementation of the Affordable Care Act — an opinion he quite publicly expressed, to the dismay of Tea Party backers who helped him win in 2010.

Although he voted against bills that could have ended the 16-day shutdown, here's an example of what he was saying about the shutdown a year ago:

“Even if we were to not pass the continuing resolution [to fund the federal government], you're not going to be able to defund Obamacare, absent of President Obama signing a law, which I think is highly unlikely," Johnson told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Aug. 13. "So I appreciate the fact that they've raised the issue. But defunding Obamacare, with President Obama in the White House and Harry Reid in the Senate, I think is next to impossible."

Johnson was scheduled to campaign with Wehby in Portland, Ore., on Monday. Merkley has led Wehby in most polls and remains favored to win re-election.

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