Oklahoma's gubernatorial race is closer than two recent national polls would indicate, four political consultants said
Ben Odom, a former state Democratic Party official, called the race between Democratic Lt. Gov. Jari Askins and U.S. Rep. Mary Fallin, R-Oklahoma City, a "squeaker."
"I really do think it's up for grabs," said Odom, a consultant taking part in a "Political Junkies" discussion in Oklahoma City, sponsored by the University of Oklahoma Political Communications Center.
A study released this week by FiveThirtyEight and The New York Times shows Fallin has a 95.9 percent chance of beating Askins and predicts Fallin will win 55.3 percent of the vote.
A Rasmussen Reports statewide telephone survey of likely voters released Friday shows Fallin picking up 60 percent support while Askins got 34 percent. The Rasmussen poll was conducted Thursday with 500 likely voters; it has a margin of sampling error of 4.5 percent. Fallin led last month's survey, 52 to 37 percent.
Neva Hill, a political consultant who has mostly Republican clients, said she agreed with Odom's take on the race. She said polling on the gubernatorial race this year in Oklahoma have had some misses — most noticeably polls showing Askins trailing by double digits just days before the Democratic primary election which she won in July.
"Anyone that would underestimate Jari Askins in this race would be foolish," Hill said.
The fact that both gubernatorial candidates are women has attracted a lot of attention, Hill said. The winner will be the state's first female governor.
"People are paying a lot more attention to the race," she said. "There's a lot more excitement on both sides.
"At the end of the day I think it will be a very hard fought and probably very negative campaign and who comes out on top depends on who does the best job... of getting out their own vote," Hill said.
Pat McFerron, director of survey research for Cole, Hargrave, Snodgrass and Associates, said Askins and Fallin are the two most underrated politicians during the past decade in the state.
"People might have tried to write them off ... but both of them are fierce campaigners," he said.
McFerron said he believes Fallin will win the Nov. 2 election.
"I think she'll win it rather handily," he said.
A lot depends on how much money Fallin can raise to put up television advertisements during the weeks leading up to the election and how much more money Askins will raise and put into her campaign. Fallin has raised $2.8 million and Askins has raised $2.4 million, which includes $1,075,000 that she has given her campaign so far, according to latest campaign information.
McFerron said polls he has seen show Fallin with about 50 percent support.
"It's Mary Fallin's race to lose," he said.
Pat Hall, a consultant and former executive director of the state Democratic Party, said polls showing Fallin with big leads and the expectations that she will win may be her biggest problem.
"I've been with Jari Askins and I've been against Jari Askins and I'd much rather be with Jari Askins in a fight," Hall said.
In other races, the consultants agreed that U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee, should easily win re-election and that Insurance Commissioner Kim Holland should win a second full four-year term.
State Rep. Ken Miller, R-Edmond, is considered the favorite in the state treasurer race, while close contests are seen in the lieutenant governor, state auditor and inspector, state schools superintendent, labor commissioner and attorney general races.
The four incumbent congressmen are seen as winning, but the consultants were split as to who would win the 5th Congressional District race, which covers most of Oklahoma County and all of Pottawatomie and Seminole counties.
The winner will succeed Fallin, who was elected to the post in 2006.
Odom said if Democrat Billy Coyle, of Oklahoma City, could raise enough money to air television ads in the weeks leading up to the election "then you may get an interesting race."
McFerron, who started polling for Republican James Lankford, of Edmond, after he won the primary runoff election, said: "Lankford's going to win this seat. It should not be a problem at all."
All agreed that independent Clark Duffe, of Edmond, would get a small percentage of votes.