THE WISH LIST of candidates who might be considering a run against Mayor Sam Adams next spring is, in many ways, a fascinating window into Portland's fractured political soul.

Consider: Some handicappers note the potential lure of ex-City Commissioner Charlie Hales, every bit the transportation advocate Adams has been, but with the added luster of a powerful business pedigree.

Others, meanwhile, perk up over the charm and smarts of Multnomah County Chairman Jeff Cogen—the former acolyte of another rumored candidate, current City Commissioner Dan Saltzman. And then there are those who rave about the progressive passion of Steve Novick.

But only one manages to tease the squee from nearly everyone in town: Earl Blumenauer, Portland's very own bow-tied, bicycle-riding, brunch-friendly congressman.

It's no surprise. Blumenauer's ties to local politics, which stretch back decades, have remained taut despite a job that sends him to Washington, DC for much of the year. He's also beloved. One pollster told me that although there's been no recent sampling on Blumenauer's viability, he nonetheless "would be a very serious candidate."

He's almost made the leap before. This time, as the rumors would have you believe, he's either being drafted or actively sounding out supporters himself. The thinking, now that Republicans have retaken Congress: Blumenauer might decide that mundane city politics is the lesser of two evils.

Except? Despite his continued—and rather public—demurrals, don't hold your breath.

Blumenauer's staff didn't reply to a request for comment, but insiders privy to some of Portland's deepest political whispers guess the latest frenzy amounts to nothing more than a public official feeling flattered by all the attention.

The reality—and it's one that many of next year's would-be mayoral challengers must confront—is that even a weakened Adams remains a formidable candidate.

He's used a series of midterm media interviews to tout his record—hammering on economic development—and he's even gotten some good headlines from the Oregonian.

He's also shaken up his staff. After naming one of his campaign gurus deputy chief of staff in January, his office announced Tuesday, March 1, that longtime spokesman Roy Kaufmann was leaving and would be replaced by land-use adviser (and former Mercury news editor) Amy J. Ruiz.

Observers say Ruiz's background—having worked on big issues from the Rose Garden redevelopment to West Hayden Island—puts her in fine position to help the office's ongoing sales pitch.

Donors won't start backing their chosen candidates until later this summer. That's about the time any unserious political darlings, like Blumenauer, will have to finally step off the fence.

And Adams will be waiting.