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2010 Governor's race: Contest still 'up for grabs,' consultant says

State political consultant say governor's race is closer than two recent national polls that show Fallin with a large lead.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT Modified: September 25, 2010 at 9:05 am •  Published: September 25, 2010

Oklahoma's gubernatorial race is closer than two recent national polls would indicate, four political consultants said Friday.

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.

'Fierce campaigners'

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.

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