NEBRASKA Democrat Ben Nelson is leaving the U.S. Senate when his term expires next year. The only Democratic member of the Oklahoma congressional delegation is leaving the House when his term expires in 2012.
Nationally, the Democratic Party is having a hard time registering new voters. The party's “market share” of new registrations has fallen significantly since 2008, when Barack Obama rode a wave of new Democratic registrations in battleground states.
Obama is part of the equation in the decision of Democrats such as Nelson and U.S. Rep. Dan Boren of Muskogee to retire from Congress. They have other reasons, of course, but the party's popularity in Oklahoma, Nebraska and other red states is certainly a factor.
Democrats still hold a registration advantage, even in Oklahoma, but the advantage is fading. What's more, party registration isn't a firm indicator of who will win an election. Despite Oklahoma having more Democrats than Republicans, all statewide offices are filled by Republicans and Republicans are in solid control of the Legislature.
Obama may win another term next year despite these trends because swing states won't necessarily embrace the Republican nominee. But the battle in battleground states will be fierce. A key indicator of enthusiasm — or lack thereof — for Obama is the slide in new Democratic registrations — just as the Democratic surge in 2008 presaged his victory that year.
In 2008, 49 percent of new voter registrations were in the Democratic column. This year the figure is 32 percent. Only 25 percent of new registrations were in the GOP camp in 2008. This year it's 34 percent. Independents, a critical bloc for Obama in 2008 and for the 2012 nominees, accounted for 26 percent of new registrations in 2008 and 33 percent this year.