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Oklahoma Stands Out Among Super Tuesday States

Filed by KOSU News in Feature.
March 6, 2012

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Oklahoma Republicans make their choice for President Obama’s opponent today, and the state’s vote is attracting national attention. The Sooner State is one of ten to vote on this date, known as Super Tuesday. But as perhaps the most conservative of the bunch, candidates are eager to prove they can win the base…

When Oklahoma gets national attention for its politics, it’s typically not for the right reasons. It often centers around the state Legislature, with the latest example a proposal that bars human fetuses in food. The state is getting taken seriously now.

“This is the first time we’ve seen Oklahoma getting attention for influencing a national election, rather than either defying the national trend or reflecting a conservative trend in American politics,” said University of Oklahoma Political Science Professor Keith Gaddie.

The candidates recognized the importance of the state from the start. When Oklahoma’s GOP invited all of them to visit, most accepted. And as tides rose and fell, State Chairman Matt Pinnell says he realized he would have to get a new calendar…

“I think it’s when we started to have a different Republican ahead in the polls almost every other week. When I started seeing that, I said ‘Hey this thing is not going to be over that soon. It’s not going to be over before Super Tuesday.’”

All four – Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum – have visited at least once, and some twice. For a speech at Oral Roberts University, Santorum drew what Pinnell thought was the largest crowd of his campaign. 2-thousand came out for Ron Paul’s visit, Mitt Romney attracted a couple hundred, and Gingrich spoke to the Oklahoma House of Representatives along with campaign stops.

In every state, candidates typically emphasize local issues. With two of the largest natural gas companies in Oklahoma, that’s become the headline for some of the stump speeches…

“When these candidates have come in to Oklahoma, they’ve certainly been promoting the message to drill here, drill now. And it’s something that certainly resonates with Oklahoma voters, not just Republicans , but Democrats and independents alike,” said Pinnell.

To that end, a 2010 Sooner Poll showed Oklahomans value drilling over environmental concerns by more than 2 to 1. And at a time when voters are focused on candidate’s conservative credentials, capturing the state where not a single county voted for President Obama in 2008 would form a valuable argument.

“Whoever wins this state is going to use that in national messaging, all the way through the general if they become the nominee, but they’ll definitely use it in the following states,” said Michael Carnuccio, President of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, a right leaning think tank.

“You’ll see all the pundits on Fox News, and CNN, and MSNBC, after Super Tuesday, whoever wins Oklahoma, they’re going to point to Oklahoma’s voting record as the most conservative state and they’re going to say, so Candidate X this is an indication they’re the most conservative.”

Polls are open from 7 AM until 7 PM Tuesday. KOSU will have live coverage starting at 7 PM Tuesday.

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