With all of the precincts reporting unofficial results, Obama won 57 percent of the statewide vote among Democrats over four little-known challengers. But the president barely topped 42 percent in the Democrat-held 2nd District that stretches from the foothills of the Ozark Mountains in the northeast to the Red River border with Texas.
“It’s one more symptom of the general problem, which is that the national Democratic Party is just not popular down there, especially not the one led by this president,” said University of Oklahoma political science professor Keith Gaddie. “These voters personally disapprove of him and they don’t necessarily buy these policies.”
Anti-abortion activist Randall Terry of West Virginia, who aired television ads featuring images of aborted fetuses, received more than 25 percent of the Democratic presidential primary vote in the 2nd District, while perennial Oklahoma candidate Jim Rogers got 19 percent. Two other candidates — Darcy Richardson and Bob Ely — combined for 14 percent of the vote.
The 2nd Congressional District seat currently is held by Democratic U.S. Rep. Dan Boren, who announced in June that he would not seek a fifth term in office. A member of the so-called Blue Dogs, a group of centrist Democrats from conservative districts, Boren has remained popular in the district but has seen his victory margins dwindle in recent years. He won re-election with 72 percent of the vote 2006 and 70 percent in 2008, but he got just 56 percent of the vote in 2010 over an underfunded and little-known challenger.
Despite Obama’s poor performance in the 2nd District, Democratic officials say it shouldn’t be taken to mean that Democratic candidates can’t perform well in the Sooner State. A Republican-held House seat in southeast Oklahoma was picked up by Democrats during a special election last month, and former state Sen. Kenneth Corn said he’s confident the right Democrat can still win in the district.
“I don’t think the president’s approval will affect the Democratic nominee in the 2nd District at all,” said Corn, a longtime Democratic lawmaker from southeast Oklahoma who considered running for the post. “People identify with their local elected officials and their congressmen much more than they do the president.”
Five Republicans and two Democrats have announced plans to seek the post. One of those Democrats, seed company owner Wayne Herriman of Collinsville, said he feels confident voters in the district won’t tie him to Obama.
“President Obama in this district has not done well. I’ll tell you up front that’s a struggle, but I’ll also tell you I’m the right person for the job,” Herriman said. “I’m from this district. I’ve spent my life here. President Obama has never been here.”
Gaddie, the political science professor, added that the turnout among Democrats in Tuesday’s election was particularly low and that many of those who did head to the polls did so because they were motivated to send a message.
“Given the opportunity to vote for anyone except (Obama), a sizable number of people showed up just to make that protest,” Gaddie said. “In the context of the larger potential Democratic electorate, it’s not that big a number.
“The percentages look big because the turnout was so low,” Gaddie said.
Only about 12 percent of the state’s registered Democrats voted in Tuesday’s primary. More than 40 percent of registered Democrats voted in the state’s primary four years ago with a more competitive field.
An analysis of Democratic primary results show Obama also performed poorly in Oklahoma’s 3rd District, where he received less than 48 percent of the vote. Terry got 22 percent of the vote there, while Jim Rogers got 16 percent. Obama performed best in the urban districts, receiving 78 percent of the vote in the 5th District that includes Oklahoma City, and 72 percent in the 1st District in Tulsa.
Because Terry received more than 15 percent of the vote statewide and both he and Rogers topped the 15 percent in individual congressional districts, they are entitled to delegates under the Oklahoma Democratic Party rules.
Telephone and email messages left Wednesday with Democratic Party officials were not immediately returned, but the party’s interim Executive Director Trav Robertson released a statement late Tuesday that read: “The party is reviewing the election results and will abide by previously established rules regarding the apportionment of delegates.”