THE only Oklahoma races to be settled in November that have direct national ties are for seats in Congress — four U.S. House seats and one U.S. Senate seat. Yet much of the campaigning this fall for other offices could focus nearly as much on Washington as it does on NE 23 and Lincoln.
This year, the nationalizing of state races will be at the instigation of Republican candidates. But the party doesn't have a monopoly on nationalizing nonfederal elections.
The GOP nominee for state insurance commissioner is quick to point out that incumbent Commissioner Kim Holland was a Barack Obama delegate in 2008. Holland must spend the fall distancing herself from a man who was unpopular in Oklahoma then and is even more so now.
Mark Costello, the Republican nominee for labor commissioner, told a Tulsa newspaper that he has seen this country "not slouch toward Gomorrah over the last 15 months, but gallop toward Gomorrah" under Obama's administration.
Scott Pruitt, the Republicans' choice for attorney general, says on his website, "Right now, all across Oklahoma, our families and businesses are besieged by a Congress, an administration and its federal agencies that are hostile to our most cherished values and ideals."
So far we haven't seen much nationalizing in races for lieutenant governor, state auditor and inspector and schools superintendent. But, hey, it's only mid-September!
The governor's race more than any other will be linked to Washington and Obama. A Republican Governors Association-funded TV spot associates Democratic nominee Jari Askins with the White House. The tag line is "Jari Askins: Ideas too liberal for Oklahoma."
Republican nominee Mary Fallin calls Obama's health care initiative "an expensive, government-run health care plan that will deteriorate the quality of our medical services."
Across this nation, the story is much the same. Pam Bondi, a Republican candidate for Florida attorney general, used a campaign spiel of "Bondi vs. Pelosi" — as if she were running for Congress.
"With most signs pointing to big Republican gains in the fall midterm elections," the St. Petersburg Times reported last week, "Republican strategists are determined to turn even local and state races into referendums on Obama and the Democratic Party nationally."
Republicans smell blood and will leverage their disaffection toward Obama. And don't think Democrats wouldn't be doing the same if the tables were turned.
Gov. Brad Henry also was a 2008 Obama delegate, but his popularity remains high. Of course he's not on the ballot this year and he might not have been quite so pro-Obama were he standing for re-election.
Nationalization of this election appears inevitable. We just hope voters will decide state races based on state concerns rather than making Obama the vicarious opponent in every single race.