Democrats hopeful as early returns put Oklahoma in Obama’s column

 With early returns showing President Barack Obama headed to a comfortable victory margin in the Oklahoma Democratic Presidential primary, state party leaders said Tuesday night (March 6) they were upbeat.

At a watch party on N. Lincoln Boulevard  in Oklahoma City activists said they would fight for the once-dominant party to make up some of the political and policy ground lost to Republicans in the past two decades.

Wallace Collins, chair of the state Democratic Party, said he believes “we are in good position for November. Their party is in disarray. I recognize that they will come back together to some extent, but I have an opinion that they have been so caustic and negative, some of the words they’ve said about each other in their campaigns and advertisements have, essentially, written political advertisements in favor of the president.”

Collins, a former member of the state House, continued, “It may be hard for them to heal.” Asked if there was one Republican candidate he might prefer over another as the president’s opponent in November, Collins chuckled and said, “I don’t think it matters. Each of them has his own set of baggage.”

Collins does not say there is a “magic number” for unemployment data low enough to assure the president’s reelection.

He told CapitolBeatOK, “Certainly, the lower unemployment goes the better it is for the president and for Democrats. When it was at nine percent and more, his critics said it was impossible for him to get reelected. Now, it is going down almost daily. All of that is good for business and for hiring.”

Collins and other Democrats at the watch party would not peg a target number of legislative seats that might be “in play,” but there is widespread satisfaction at the Democratic victories in two recent special elections – one the retention of a state Senate seat for the party, the other a pick-up of a long-time Democratic seat a Republican had won in 2010.

Collins reflected, “We’ve not talked about the legislative races in terms of numbers, but we’re simply trying to gain all we can and get as many good candidates as we can.” He added, “We are in a process of recovery after a long slide down. I’m feeling good here in March as I look ahead.”

At 8 p.m. election night, 547 of the state’s 1,961 precincts had reported. President Obama had 17,431 votes (52.94 percent). Pro-life activist Randall Terry had 6,175 votes (18.75 percent), while perennial candidate Jim Rogers (the party U.S. Senate nominee in 2010) was gaining 5,196 votes (15.78 percent). The balance of the vote was scattered among Bob Ely and Darcy G. Richardson.

Dana Orwig, vice chair of the state party, reflected that as they have watched the Republican primary season, “We in the Oklahoma Democratic Party are feeling a sense of growing excitement over President Obama’s chances for reelection. I am certainly optimistic. People are becoming more aware of the degrees to which both national and local Republicans are overreaching.”

Orwig continued, “The party of smaller government is showing that they aren’t practicing what they preach. We Democrats are feeling good about what we see right now in the economy. I am certainly hopeful about this coming year.”

Betty McElderry, a national committee member, told CapitolBeatOK, “I watched President Obama’s address today and I liked what he had to say. He was realistic about the challenges we still face. He has an unusual ability to recognize where we are and give great hope it’s going to get even better. We still have a ways to go, but we have the right leader to take us forward.”

Trav Robertson, the interim executive director, is a campaign veteran, including a stint in South Carolina, but “this is my first time actually working for the party.” He commented that the Oklahoma primary had “flown under the radar” for some people, but “the Republican candidates are so poor, as Barbara Bush said recently, that we have reasons to feel fairly confident.”

He insisted Democrats would wage contests in Oklahoma advancing “the policies of the future, as opposed to the failed policies of the past.”