Saturday, August 21, 2010

Political Consultants Give Edge To James Lankford

By Michael McNutt/The Oklahoman ~ The barnburner that is the Republican 5th Congressional District race will boil down to which candidate can get their supporters out to the polls next week and what effect last-minute campaign tactics will have on voters, a panel of political consultants said Friday.
See Consultants Measure Calvey-Lankford Runoff below.
With an expected low voter turnout, the race is considered close, but political newcomer James Lankford may have a slight edge because of his team of volunteers and his use of social media, such as Facebook, they said.

"It's Lankford's race to lose," said Ben Odom, a former state Democratic party official and one of three consultants taking part in a " Political Junkies" discussion in Oklahoma City, sponsored by the University of Oklahoma Political Communications Center.

Kevin Calvey, ahead early on in the campaign only to finish a close second in last month's GOP primary election, seems to be sputtering in the final days of this race, said Pat McFerron, director of survey research for Cole, Hargrave, Snodgrass and Associates, a group that handles Republican political campaigns.

"We've seen a recent rash of what I would classify as a little bit bizarre attacks of Kevin Calvey trying to paint James Lankford as a negative campaigner," McFerron said. "If you look at what he says he (Lankford) says, I don't know how you can say that he's attacked Kevin Calvey.

"It's a classic case of someone launching the throwing of mud like maybe the other person had done it first," McFerron said. "What Calvey is using as a basis for this is false."

"Lankford should be in the best position because these are really desperate attacks by Calvey," McFerron said.

It's unknown whether Calvey's approach will turn off or resonate with voters, he said.

Short political career may limit Lankford
Calvey, a former state legislator who ran for the congressional post in 2006, is better known, McFerron said. He started his campaign hours after U.S. Rep. Mary Fallin, R-Oklahoma City, announced in March 2009 that she would not seek re-election and would run for governor.

Calvey, a member of the Oklahoma Army National Guard, has stressed his tour of duty prosecuting terrorists in Iraq.

Lankford's message of changing the status quo in Washington seems to have caught on with voters, but he hasn't been on the political scene a long time, McFerron said.

"A lot of voters don't know a lot about him," McFerron said. "The burden of proof is a little bit tougher for him."

Lankford, of Edmond, finished first in last month's GOP primary election. He won 34 percent of the vote while Calvey, of Oklahoma City, won 32 percent in a seven-candidate field. The winner of Tuesday's election faces a Democrat and two independents in the Nov. 2 general election.

Odom said Lankford has an advantage because this is the first campaign for many of his volunteers and supporters.

"Their enthusiasm is all the more important in a low-turnout runoff," Odom said.

Lankford, a former director of the Falls Creek youth camp near Davis, has received a lot of support from Baptists, which also should help him in Tuesday's election, Odom said.

Pat Hall, a consultant and former executive director of the state Democratic Party, said Lankford has to make sure those who voted for him last month head back to the polls and vote for him again Tuesday.

"He's gained all these new dedicated voters," Hall said.

"He's made me a believer in his social media of Facebook. I don't know of any reason why they wouldn't come back and vote for him a second time."

A report in The Oklahoman since the July election that Calvey helped finance his campaign with more than $250,000 in investment gains he earned in a Russian private equity could cost him votes in the conservative district, Hall and McFerron said.

"I had a conservative Republican tell me this the other day (that) he's not voting for anybody that took money from commies," Hall said.

"There's got to be a lot of people thinking that out there."

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