I love election nights! It mixes three of my favorite things all together: arithmetic, politics and maps. Last night may have only been a jumble of state primaries, but there were so many of them that it felt like a national election, with states being falsely projected for candidates and analysts struggling with delegate math. And like the 2000 national election, it wasn't decisive at all.
Nationally, it is a tight race between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama with the Democratic Party nomination entirely up for grabs. But in Oklahoma, Hillary Clinton won fairly decisively. Analysts have chalked it up to the fact that Oklahoma borders Arkansas, one of Hillary's many home states, and therefore Hillary would be a regional favorite. This may be partially true, especially as to why Hillary was on top of the polls before anyone started campaigning, but I think a factor just as important to that was that Barack Obama not only avoided campaigning here in person, but Oklahoma was also one of only two Super Tuesday states where he didn't run television ads. Hillary may have won big, but Obama certainly didn't try to woo any Sooners to his side.
Analysts also chalked up the reason Obama did so poorly here to our closed primary, which shuts out independents and left-leaning Republicans, an important demographic for Obama. What analysts didn't notice was that this effect was magnified by the demographics of the Democratic party in this state. Like many southerners, most Oklahomans were registered Democrats before the 70s, even though they still voted very conservatively. During the 70s and after, a change occurred so that most Oklahomans started registering Republican. This means that most of Oklahoma's registered Democrats are now over 65, a demographic that tends to vote in this election for Hillary. 42% of the Democratic primary voters were 60 and over, and they voted overwhelmingly for Clinton (64% to 23%).
Analysts were also surprised that John Edwards, a candidate who dropped out of the presidential race last week, did so well here in Oklahoma and speculated that the reason was that Oklahomans still remembered him fondly from his close 2nd place in the state in 2004. I think the real reason Edwards was able to pull more than 10% and even beat Obama in some counties was that he actually campaigned here. No other democratic candidate actually set foot in the state, although Bill Clinton did drop by OU's campus. Of course, maybe Oklahoma democrats just don't pay attention to current events and didn't realize that Edwards had left the building. After all it is monster truck season; voters may have had other things on their minds.
On the Republican side, John McCain won a close race over Mike Huckabee, as predicted by the polls. I'm not exactly sure why, though. It would seem that Oklahoma should have been Huckabee country, what with all our Baptist churches and light-up crosses on the sides of our tall buildings. But I guess there is a limit to how far evangelical votes can go. Although, like all the southern states, had there been a candidate named Romnabee, a Baptist minister with business experience, he would already be the next unified Republican party presidential candidate.