Dan Boren is a Democrat who knows how to win in a conservative district. In three tries for Congress, he has never had a close race - exceeding 70 percent in each of his last two elections. He's taken advantage of a famous name to make his GOP-leaning seat relatively safe from challengers.
It's interesting to see how far Boren will go to try to preserve his image as someone acceptable to conservatives:
Ten feet from the desk, in the main hallway of Boren’s new Durant headquarters, the congressman beams from a portrait, his arm draped around President George W. Bush. A photo with the current president is nowhere to be found.
“Barack Obama is very unpopular,” said Boren, who represents Oklahoma’s 2nd Congressional District. “He got 34 percent of the vote statewide, and less in our district. If he were to run for re-election today, I bet it would be even worse.”
Boren points out that he does support some of Obama’s initiatives, like the economic stimulus package. He has voted for Obama-supported bills 81 percent of the time, according to a recent Congressional Quarterly study. But despite this, he said the president is too liberal.
“It would be a lot nicer if we had someone who was in the middle,” he said. “Bill Clinton won our district. A lot of people don’t remember that, but he, in 1996, carried this district. I think if you have someone who governs from the middle, who’s pragmatic, who works with both parties. President Obama talks a lot about bipartisanship. If you look at some of the legislation, he may have one or two Republicans.”
If Boren feels the need to be so strident in his criticisms of Obama, it is a testament to just how unpopular he must be in eastern Oklahoma. While Obama's approval ratings float somewhere above 50 percent nationally, Boren is comparing him unfavorably to Bill Clinton, and portraying him as partisan and out of the mainstream.
This is what you'd expect from the Republican candidate, not a Democrat who votes with his party's leadership 90 percent of the time.
Interestingly, Democrats currently hold at least 22 House seats that have a similar or greater GOP voting advantage.