09/13/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Gordon Smith Declines McCain Committee Role

For weeks now, Sen. Gordon Smith has been actively running away from the standard bearers of his own party, even running television advertisements that tout his legislative collaboration with Barack Obama.

On Wednesday, the Oregon Republican, who is facing a tough reelection fight, took what appears to be the next step in that process.

As reported by the Oregonian, Smith announced he would not serve on the state leadership team of presidential candidate John McCain.

For the first time since he became a senator in 1997, Oregon Republican Gordon Smith won't be on the leadership team of the GOP presidential campaign in Oregon. The question is whether this is part of his effort to play down his Republican party identification.

John McCain announced that former Oregon Gov. Vic Atiyeh will be honorary chairman of the campaign in Oregon. Every other top GOP official in the state -- including Congressman Greg Walden and the Republican leaders of the Legislature -- are listed as honorary co-chairs.

But there's no sign of Smith, who had been one of McCain's earliest supporters in the Senate and was listed as long ago as 2006 as McCain's honorary co-chairman in Oregon.

Smith's spokeswoman, Lindsay Gilbride, said Smith is not taking a leadership role because he is focused on his "tough re-election campaign." She insisted that there is no intent to distance himself from McCain or the Republican presidential effort.

"He is very supportive of John McCain," she said, adding that Smith has never had a formal role with the McCain campaign.