If Oklahoma is now the reddest of the red states, it is not because Oklahoma is the most conservative place in the country.
That, at least, is the belief of Barack Obama’s Oklahoma City campaign coordinator Jeff Bezdek.
“This state is no different than any other state,” Bezdek said. “It just needed investment in it.”
But pollster Bill Shappard of TVpoll.com disagrees with that assessment.
“Here in Oklahoma we are values voters,” Shappard said. “And Oklahoma’s values are conservative, even for many Democrats.”
When election night 2008 ended, there was a clear advantage for the Democrats on the national stage. Their party now controls the White House and expanded their leads in Congress. Several states that had been Republican strongholds in past elections turned, or began trending, donkey blue ” except Oklahoma.
Consider the numbers:GOP presidential nominee John McCain had his biggest win here. Republicans took control of the state Senate for the first time. An incumbent Democrat was upset in a statewide race. Oklahoma was the only state where McCain won every county.
But Bezdek doesn’t credit the Republican Party for their Sooner State dominance.
“I think it’s entirely due to party disorganization,” Bezdek said. “(The Oklahoma) Democratic Party did not embrace the movement early on. They did not develop the infrastructure to capture and stimulate greater voter registration.”
Bezdek said the Oklahoma Democratic Party was late in showing its support for the Obama campaign because it had basically written off Obama winning the state. An Associated Press story back in August wrote party officials conceded McCain would beat Obama.
“The worst mistake, and I lay total blame on the Democratic Party for this, is writing off the election months ago,” Bezdek said. “If you proclaim that you are not going to win, then you’re not going to win. This local Democratic Party needs to have an intervention and reassess its priorities in how it deals with messaging and communicating with its constituents.”
Bezdek believes because most of Oklahoma’s top Democrat officials supported Hillary Clinton, it took longer to get the state party to rally around Obama.
Oklahoma Democratic Party chairman Ivan Holmes endorsed Obama as a superdelegate at the nominating convention. Holmes was not available for comment.
A look at exit-poll numbers indicates how well the Republican Party got its message out in Oklahoma.
In the presidential race, McCain took nearly every demographic, no matter if the voter was male or female, no matter the age group. Besides getting 91 percent of the conservative vote, McCain also took the moderate vote by 14 points, and even received one out of every five liberal voters.
The numbers were similar for Republican Sen. James Inhofe, who easily won re-election over state Sen. Andrew Rice. McCain and Inhofe also took a bulk of voters who “somewhat disapproved” of President George W. Bush.
McCain also earned 26 percent of people who voted for Rice, while Obama only garnered 7 percent of Inhofe voters.
Overall, Obama’s 33 percent Oklahoma vote is one of the lowest for any Democrat.
“There is no excuse to get a vote less than John Kerry,” Bezdek said, referring to the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee who received 34 percent of the Oklahoma vote. “I’m sorry, but John Kerry was not that well-liked in Oklahoma. I have heard people call Oklahoma racists and say extremely negative things about Oklahoma and I do not believe that. I do not believe that our voting public is somehow different.”
But there are signs Obama never had a chance. The exit poll showed 57 percent of Oklahoma voters made up their mind for president before September.
“When the stock market fell (in September), the polls in a lot of states changed at that time,” Shappard said. “Oklahoma didn’t change. You could argue the economy is not going to affect Oklahoma. But you could also argue it’s because of value voters. The economy is not their issue but abortion is.”
The day before the election, TVpoll.com came out with a poll not only showing who Oklahomans were mostly likely going to vote for, but also their attitudes about politics and American society in general. One question asked if an Obama presidency would improve race relations. The majority in the poll, 44 percent, said relations would get worse. Only 18 percent said race relations would improve.
“Not everyone is as optimistic about Barack Obama winning, especially Republicans and conservatives,” Shappard said. “They look at race relations in a different way. Liberals and progressives see a black president as race relations getting better. I’m not sure conservatives share that world view.” “Scott Cooper