October 30, 2004

SOONER OR LATER THE RED RISES:

In Okla., Bush's Popularity Boosts GOP Senate Hopeful (Lois Romano, October 30, 2004, Washington Postr)

President Bush may be fighting nationally to keep his own job, but here in Oklahoma, his coattails are giving quite a lift to the Republican candidate in a tight and contentious Senate race. [...]

Coburn has long had a penchant for impolitic remarks. During the campaign, he said he favored the death penalty for abortionists, he called the Senate race a choice between "good and evil," and he said he had heard there was "rampant lesbianism" in Oklahoma schools. And in a state with a large Native American population, Coburn disparaged age-old federal treaties that fund the tribes and criticized some Cherokees with marginal bloodlines for claiming tribal benefits. By late September, Carson -- who is part Cherokee -- was inching ahead. Earlier that month, Salon.com published an article alleging that Coburn had committed Medicaid fraud and sterilized an underage woman without her consent. Coburn denied the charges and accused the Carson campaign of planting the story -- an accusation that Carson denied.

The initial coverage was damaging to Coburn. But after Carson aired a negative ad about the charges, Coburn fought back, and his campaign began to rebound. "I think the Carson campaign pushed it one step too far and Carson's negatives went up," Gaddie said. "Coburn caught some sympathy."

Republicans also began taking advantage of Bush's popularity in the state. The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) has been airing widely an ad declaring that a vote for Carson is "a vote against President Bush " -- a direct plea to Bush supporters who are worried that Bush's second-term agenda could be hampered by a Democratic Senate. Another independent group has purchased radio ads calling Coburn a "fearless conservative" who "stands with President Bush."

To reinforce the point, Vice President Cheney, Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and former president George H.W. Bush have all been here campaigning, urging voters to support Coburn for the sake of the Senate and the president.

Coburn and the NRSC have also hurt Carson by tarring him as a liberal and comparing him to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.). "That alone can have a devastating effect in this race," said Kenneth S. Hicks, a political scientist at Rogers State University in Oklahoma.


The more important coattail state could well prove to be WI.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 30, 2004 4:39 PM
Comments

If Coburn should somehow win, it would be a clear indication of the importance of 'coattails.' Carson is well within tolerance. He's a loud patriot, he's no libertine. If all things were equal, he'd crush Coburn.

Coburn is probably a well-meaning guy, but he's a religious zealot of almost comical proportions. What can you say about someone who would complain about Schindler's List being shown on TV because it involved nudity? He's about a year's worth of material for Don Imus. One can only imagine what HL Mencken would have done with(to?) him.

Given all that, if I lived in Oklahoma, I'd vote for Coburn. But I feel bad for Carson who is a centrist trapped in a polarized electoral process.

Posted by: Bart at October 30, 2004 5:42 PM

Oklahoma! Song List

  • Overture
  • Oh, What A Beautiful Morning
  • The Surrey With the Fringe On Top
  • Kansas City
  • I Cain't Say No
  • Many A New Day
  • It's A Scandal! It's An Outrage!
  • People Will Say We're In Love
  • Pore Jud Is Daid
  • Lonely Room
  • Out of My Dreams
  • The Farmer and the Cowman
  • All Err Nothin'
  • Oklahoma
  • Finale

Posted by: Eugene S. at October 30, 2004 6:03 PM

I saw part of their debate on CSPAN, and Carson makes Dan Quayle look distinguished. He also had this extremely disorienting habit of fluttering his eyelids while speaking that he's going to have to break to get onto a larger political stage.

Posted by: brian at October 30, 2004 7:58 PM

Bart: Coburn's a bit of a loose cannon, granted. However, on the fundamental question whether Carson will be more likely to support the President or the liberals who run his party in D.C., a freshman from Oklahoma who wants to have a future and who owes his election to all that outside money that Dems poured into Oklahoma is going to do whatever new Senate minority leader Clinton tells him to do, not what the President needs. That makes him a "moderate" who will be against the President more often than not on the most important issues.

Not sure what you mean, "if all things were equal, he'd crush Coburn." One supposes you mean that in a state with so many more registered Dems than Republicans, he ought to win. Credit Oklahomans for understanding however "moderate" Carson appears to be in Oklahoma, he'll have to respond when his party's leadership tells him to oppose the President. I think I'd put it a little differently -- if all things (i.e. party registration) were equal in Oklahoma, Coburn would crush Carson.

Interestingly enough, it's a relatively evangelical state, and they seem to like the "zealot" in Coburn.

Posted by: kevin whited at October 30, 2004 11:08 PM

Eugene:

We'd prefer you not remind us of the saddest song ever written.

Posted by: oj at October 31, 2004 8:35 AM

Orrin:

For a moment there I assumed that you, as a good conservative, were referring to "Oh, What A Beautiful Morning."

Posted by: Peter B at October 31, 2004 9:02 AM

Can't Say No is an anti-conservative sentiment too.

The whole show appears to be commie drivel....

Posted by: oj at October 31, 2004 9:09 AM

Kevin,

Oklahoma is a state that elected Mike Synar to Congress for decades, and also elevated the staggeringly leftist and stupid Fred Harris to the Senate.

Carson's voting record is 50/50 according to National Journal, and I have no reason not to believe that were he in the Senate, his record would be similar. It is in the interest of the Democrat leadership to allow him to tailor his votes as he needs in order to stay viable in Oklahoma. You are correct that on party-line votes, he would be partisan.

My view is that if Bush were not running, and I would imagine that Bush will win the votes of White male Oklahomans something like 90-10, Carson would stomp on Coburn like a basket full of grapes. Since Bush is on the ticket, I expect him to be able to pull Coburn across the finish line, just as he will pull Murkowski through in Alaska.

Religious zealotry does have a political base in Oklahoma, it is true. However its limits can be seen from the fact that Largent did lose the gubernatorial race, in a Republican year, and he had name recognition from football and a base in the Tulsa metro area.

Posted by: Bart at October 31, 2004 9:51 AM

Bart:

But a third party candidate--one on one Largent would have won easily and nearly did anyway.

Posted by: oj at October 31, 2004 9:59 AM

How did a 3d party candidate get 14% of the vote, all from Largent? He did so because Largent wanted to keep Oklahoma's stupid toll roads, keep its anti-competitive tax structure, and ban cockfighting. I must admit to being happy to see Largent lose, because he wrote an Op-Ed piece in the Times in which he explained why he wanted little Elian shipped home(?) to Cuba.

Mr. Largent as governor, would you support legislation which would force innocent children to live in our maximum security prison facilities if their fathers are incarcerated there, even if those fathers were divorced from their mothers at the time, and that child was living with the divorced mother's family in a caring, loving and supportive environment because the mother had died in the interim? No? Then why do you support sending Elain back to Cuba?

Posted by: Bart at October 31, 2004 11:17 AM

Bart:

Yes, you've made a case that the 15% was even more religious conservative, not less.

Posted by: oj at October 31, 2004 11:28 AM

OJ,

I hope that your analysis is the correct one.

Posted by: Bart at October 31, 2004 5:58 PM
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