While Oklahoma Democrats face major challenges, this doesn't mean Republicans have a perpetual lock on power. GOP failure can open the door for Democratic resurgence, and some subtle trends should worry state Republicans. GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney got 891,325 Oklahoma votes, a decline of nearly 8 percent compared with the 960,165 votes received by John McCain in 2008. Democratic turnout was also lower this year, but if one-time Republican voters start staying home in larger numbers than their counterparts, Oklahoma Democrats will gain by default.
Nationally, the Republicans' challenge is to broaden their appeal to minorities, women and younger voters without driving out crucial elements of their base. In Oklahoma, the Democrats' challenge may be to transition into a more liberal, urban party without repelling suburban voters or severing all ties with rural voters.
In politics, voter preferences are never set in stone; the only constant is change. Given Oklahoma's dramatic political shift over the past decade, Republicans have no reason for hubris or complacency, just as national Democrats can't assume their 2012 presidential victory is any guarantor of future national success.