- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 4, 2012

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — President Obama is poised to win his party’s nomination unanimously at this week’s Democratic National Convention after quixotic candidates in Oklahoma and West Virginia who won sizable chunks of primary votes weren’t eligible to collect delegates.

It’s a major contrast with Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who still is trying to control the Ron Paul insurgency within the party. And it leaves Mr. Obama headed into November with a unified party, even if it is slightly less enthusiastic than in 2008.

Despite sluggish favorability numbers and a still-wobbly economy, no serious intraparty challengers to Mr. Obama even have been whispered — keeping with the practice in recent election cycles that the party of a sitting president running for re-election stands by its man.

Another reason Mr. Obama hasn’t received an intraparty pushback is because the Democratic Party mostly has shed its conservative wing, leaving it more cohesive and less prone to internal ideologically struggles, said Sarah A. Binder, a political analyst at the Brookings Institution, a liberal-leaning Washington think tank.

“We rarely see protests [within the Democratic Party]. They have much more serious and pragmatic delegates who are in the game for winning, not for ideologically purity,” she said. “I don’t know if we’d say the same thing about the Republican Party today, given that it does have a strong libertarian wing to it.”

The most recent campaign in which an incumbent president faced a significant in-house scare up to the convention was 1992, when conservative commentator Pat Buchanan ran a serious challenge to President George H.W. Bush’s re-election bid.

It’s not out of the realm of possibility that future incumbent presidents could be in a position to lose a few delegates at their conventions at the hand of a protest challenger, political analysts say.

“It depends on the nature of the challenge,” said Karlyn Bowman, a public-opinion analyst at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative-leaning Washington think tank. “These people who’ve been running for a long time really want to win or to make a statement, in the case of Ron Paul, and these people are not individuals who necessary will give up.”

Mr. Obama’s hold on a unanimous delegate roll-call vote at the Democratic National Convention was threatened briefly when two Democratic challengers won several counties in the Oklahoma presidential primary in March.

The Oklahoma Democratic Party immediately said the challengers — Randall Terry, a pro-life activist who won 18 percent of the vote, and perennial candidate Jim Rogers, who drew almost 14 percent — were ineligible to receive delegates because they failed to file the necessary paperwork under the party’s delegate-selection procedure.

The party also accused Mr. Terry, who founded the pro-life group Operation Rescue, of not being a legitimate Democrat. He previously ran unsuccessfully for public office in New York and Florida as a Republican, and he has qualified for the November general election ballot in Florida as a non-party challenger to longtime Rep. Alcee Hastings, a Democrat.

Low voter turnout and poor enthusiasm for the president — who didn’t campaign in Oklahoma — rendered the protest votes against him there largely meaningless, said University of Oklahoma political science professor R. Keith Gaddie.

“No one cared” about the primary, he said. “Unless there’s a bond issue on the ballot and you’re a Democrat, you don’t bother to show up.”

Oklahoma Democratic Party Chairman Wallace Collins also called the votes for Mr. Terry and Mr. Rogers “not a big deal” because they didn’t follow the rules, nor put up a legal fight for the delegates.

“This a country of laws, and the Democratic Party is no different,” Mr. Collins said. “Obviously, President Obama is not the most popular guy in Oklahoma. [But] I don’t think there was any kind of serious attempt to actually challenge the president. Call it a protest vote or just a lark.”

Oklahoma wasn’t the only state where the president faced a protest challenger in a primary. In West Virginia, Keith Judd — an inmate in a federal prison in Texas serving a 171/2-year sentence for extortion — won more than 40 percent of the vote in the state’s Democratic presidential primary in May. Mr. Obama won the contest with more than 59 percent of the vote, but the primary proved embarrassing to the president.

Mr. Judd wasn’t eligible for delegates because no one signed up to be a delegate for him.

But the Obama campaign had few expectations to win such Republican-leaning states as Oklahoma and West Virginia anyway, meaning the protest votes there likely won’t alter its overall strategy.

“It’s a different kind of Democrat out here” in Oklahoma, Mr. Gaddie said. “It’s sort of a last gasp of the old, rural New Dealers.”

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