Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Democrat Observers Assess Askins-Edmondson Race

Jari Askins and Drew Edmondson are locked in what appears to be a close race for the Democratic nomination for governor, an opinion substantiated by recent polls showing the two essentially tied.

Previous polls gave Edmondson the lead, but not an overwhelming one.

Now, with less than three weeks until the July 27th primary, observers say they expect the race to be as close as the recent polls indicate.

The McCarville Report Online asked longtime Democrats, some office holders, some observers, some consultants, and all longtime party activists, to assess the race. For various reasons, none of them want to be quoted by name, primarily because of relationships and friendships they don't want to endanger with their frank assessments (and, possibly, because they're leery of being quoted on this "Republican" website).

A prominent eastern Oklahoma Democrat, perhaps echoing the sentiments of others as well as his own, said, "I think that the Drew-Jari race is a toss-up in my area, as well as in the state. I hate the fact that two of the three mentioned candidates (Askins, Edmondson, Fallin) will no longer be in public office by the end of the year."

"Jari has the edge down here," wrote a well-known Democrat in southeastern Oklahoma. "She has been an almost
constant presence during her time as lieutenant governor.

"Drew has not been here nearly as much. In fact, he has not taken advantage of several invitations to visit the area. He did come down for the Oklahoma Academy debate in May at Southeastern, which gave him a chance to speak in front of the group opposing the sale of Sardis before the debate. He got good media coverage on that, but it was a one-time thing.

"Jari has been here almost every time she's been asked, including economic development events in what is the hottest rural economy in the state, and Democratic Party events. Also, she has support from almost all the local legislators, including the very public support of Rep. Paul Roan, who was re-elected without opposition. Almost all of the most involved party faithful are with Jari, though they will have no problem lining up with Drew should he get the nomination.

"It is nothing negative against Edmondson in the area. Askins has worked very hard in southeastern Oklahoma to develop solid relationships and I believe it will pay off on July 27."

In central Oklahoma, a longtime Democratic Party insider offered these thoughts: "The race has been a fairly typical primary battle with some serious sparring going on behind the scenes.

"Askins is outspending Edmondson nearly 2-1 on television, but that is clearly because she has to do so now. She has to close the gap immediately. Virtually all the public and private polls have her behind. She is trying desperately to catch up and move ahead. The general consensus from insiders is Jari's spot are not that effective or as good as Drew's. Her message of experience in a year of anti-incumbent fever seems to be way off target and possibly harmful to her own effort.

"However, because of what she's spending on ads, she has Edmondson's full attention and the next few days could prove to be very interesting.

"Edmondson is simply trying to maintain his lead without spending much money. He's touching on his experience, particularly as a veteran, to reinforce his credentials as the Democratic frontrunner.

"It seems the race is tightening, so it is certainly likely that someone will go very negative very, very soon. That's Drew's arena. He's been in political knife fights for most of his adult life. If you give anyone the edge from here on in, it would have to be Drew. It remains to be seen if Jari can go on the attack effectively against a seasoned opponent. If Jari can eek out a draw in the political brawl to come, she has a chance to pull the upset."

Said a seasoned observer, the veteran of several knock-down, drag-out Democratic primaries in the Tulsa area: "I love Drew Edmondson. I barely know Jari Askins. But: Right now, I think Drew's in danger of being derailed. This (TV) commercial Askins is running about women being paid as much as men is scoring. It sure did in my household, where I'm outnumbered four to one. Drew will be exceptionally strong in eastern Oklahoma, as you might expect, but my friends out west and down south are telling me Askins is very strong. I expect a close finish."

Said a party veteran, now retired: "Jari spoke to our lady's group a few months ago and knocked the ball out of the park. She just has it all together. Drew has been an excellent official and also makes a good presentation. I just somehow feel Jari is going to win in a very close contest and yes, I am supporting her as are most of the women I know."

A highly-respected state official said, "Most people I've talked to think Drew has much better looking ads and a better, more governor-looking, message so far. He has run the better campaign, in most seasoned observers' views. On the other hand, Jari is outspending Drew -- she clearly is not afraid of writing a personal check -- and she's supposedly got lots more personal money than he does. If she hits on a theme that resonates with focus groups and her polling shows marked improvement, watch out. Still waiting for things to get ugly. Surprised they haven't. To me, shows the race is neck and neck, with neither wanting to be the first to go negative. If Drew can maintain his presumed advantage in Tulsa and eastern Oklahoma, and keep his losses in Oklahoma City at a minimum, he'll win the primary."

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