I noted on my Facebook page last night that the most surprising thing about the primary elections in Oklahoma was that Barack Obama was barely holding on to 56% of the Democratic vote. After the last precincts were counted, that number increased by a whopping 1%.
That’s right – in an election where Obama, the incumbent, faced no “serious” opposition, he only managed to capture 57% of the vote.
Obama had four challengers in Oklahoma – Jim Rogers, Darcy Richardson, Bob Ely (who has one of the most entertaining campaign websites I’ve seen in a while) and anti-abortion activist and “Operation Rescue” founder Randall Terry. Overall turnout was extremely low (only 112,000 registered Democrats voted) and Randall Terry managed to capture 18% of the vote. Obama lost in 15 counties, with 12 of those races belonging to Terry.
According to party rules, since Terry won at least 15% of the state-wide primary vote he is entitled to one delegate from Oklahoma at the national convention, which means that Obama will not be unanimously renominated.
In 1980, Ted Kennedy engaged Jimmy Carter in a vigorous challenge for the party nomination. Even though Kennedy was far behind in the delegate count he refused to give up, and his organization put tremendous pressure on Carter delegates to release their commitments and essentially turn the 1980 convention into an open ballot. The convention went down in the history books as one of the nastiest on record.
Democrats are smart enough not to make the same mistakes twice. In 1980, Jimmy Carter won only 51% of the popular vote in the Democratic primaries. President Obama would be fatally damaged by a similar showing within his own party today. I have no doubt that a strong Democratic challenger like Hillary Clinton could likely have taken the party nomination from Obama, if voters and delegates were free from intimidation at the highest levels of the party. The fact that Obama has no serious challenger suggests that party leaders immediately shut down anyone who tried.
Liberals can say whatever they wish about the “bloodbath” occurring in the Republican primaries. But remember that something a lot worse would probably have happened to Barack Obama if the Democratic party leadership had allowed an unrestricted nominating process for their party.