I had a chance to watch Rep. Dan Boren (D., Okla.) speak at the NRA convention, and I can see why a lot of conservatives and a lot of Republicans like him. Duncan Currie wrote a bit about how he thrives as a Democrat in deeply conservative Oklahoma. Of course, this doesn’t change the fact that a man plausibly labeled “the most conservative Democrat in Congress” still votes to make Nancy Pelosi speaker of the House every cycle. A Republican in the same seat would vote essentially the same, and put the Democrats one step closer to a minority.
But Boren is phenomenally popular . . . or at least he was. Yet that party affiliation might be enough to give him real trouble this year.
Pat McFerron, director of survey research at Cole Hargrave Snodgrass and Associates, and the “Sooner Survey” offers these thoughts:
The 2010 election cycle is shaping up to be unlike any in state history. While some want to compare it to the 1994 election that saw Republicans in the Sooner State make significant gains in statewide and congressional contests, the data we see today reveals that, in Oklahoma at least, 1994 could ultimately be seen as a tremor quake compared to seismic changes that could happen in 2010. While Barack Obama’s unpopularity certainly is a factor in the expected Republican gains, it is my belief that this change is much more fundamental. The real change in Oklahoma is that voters no longer see a significant difference between the Oklahoma Democratic Party and the National Democratic Party. Oklahoma voters see both the local (47% too liberal) and national (59% too liberal) Democratic parties as “too liberal.” Even among registered Democrats, 45% see their national party as too liberal – and 32% see their state party as being too far to the left. Among the critical swing voting bloc of registered Democrats who say they are a conservative (54% of all Democrats) 45% say their national party is too liberal, and 48% say the state party is too liberal.
. . . Clearly, to these conservative Democrats – Democrats who elected David Boren, Dave McCurdy, Glenn English, Wes Watkins and others – are abandoning their party at a rapid pace; a pace that has accelerated dramatically since the election of Barack Obama. As historians and political observers are aware, Oklahoma has voted Republican on the Presidential election every four years beginning in 1968. Beginning in 1980, Oklahoma has filled every open Republican U.S. Senate seat with a Republican, and in 1994, began sending a majority Republican congressional delegation. Now, in 2010, one can expect Oklahoma to cement its Republican leanings in statewide secondary contests and at the legislative level.
This decisive movement of Oklahoma voters from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party is also evident in that we have seen a dramatic change in our generic ballot for state legislative contests. Whereas for years, the margin has generally been only a couple of points advantage for each party, today (and confirmed for three times in one of our statewide surveys) we see a 20-point Republican advantage. Key Facts Mary Fallin holds 22 point leads in general election match-ups against both Drew Edmondson and Jari Askins. Democrats that consider themselves to be conservatives (representing 54% of all of the state’s Democrats) believe both the state and the national Democratic Parties are “too liberal”. Oklahoma voters, particularly swing Democrats, no longer distinguish between the National Democratic Party and the Oklahoma Democratic Party. With a Republican advantage of 20 points, the generic legislative ballot is 16 points greater than any we have recorded in any past election cycle.
. . . While there are still months to go, it is very clear that 2010 should be a Republican year in Oklahoma. With redistricting just around the corner, and the fact that this shift appears to be a fundamental shift along ideological lines as opposed to being based on personalities, one is left to ponder if there is a longterm future for the Democratic Party in Oklahoma other than to fill the minority party role of watchdog, and only winning significant races in the case of scandal or other unusual circumstances. Given the data we have today, that seems the most likely outcome.