When Mitt Romney made a stop in Oklahoma City last November he buttered up the crowd by implying its genius for previous voting habits, specifically its show of support for Sen. John McCain in all 77 counties during the 2008 presidential election.
Speaking to a supportive crowd at the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame, Romney referred to Oklahoma as the “reddest state in the nation,” and there isn’t much debate that in eight months the state will back the Republican nominee, whoever that might be.
However, while Romney might have been right to refer to the Sooner State as the nation’s reddest, or most conservative, it was his campaign rival Rick Santorum that appealed to the state’s conservative nature during the March 6 primary election in Oklahoma, and Santorum was also a voter favorite in Piedmont.
The Republican presidential primary election in Oklahoma saw Santorum take 34 percent of the state’s GOP vote, but Santorum received even better support from Piedmont’s two precincts with 36.2 percent (377 votes).
Like the rest of the state, Romney came in a close second in Piedmont with 28.10 percent (292), followed by Newt Gingrich with 24.92 percent (259) and Ron Paul with 10 percent (104).
Santorum’s victory in Oklahoma came as no surprise to Canadian County Republican Chair and Piedmont resident Robert Hubbard.
“I thought he would win (Oklahoma),” Hubbard said about Santorum. “Actually, I really expected Santorum to (get more) votes from what I could see at the events that I attended.”
Hubbard, who said he never reveals his candidate of choice in an effort to remain a neutral chairman, said recent endorsements by well-known Oklahomans for Romney and Gingrich may have affected Oklahoma voters, but he does believe the conservative nature of the state was the driving force behind Santorum’s win.
“We are the reddest state in the nation,” Hubbard said. “I think people in Oklahoma understand what a checkbook is, they don’t write checks without money in their accounts. Oklahomans just have good, honest values.”
The Super Tuesday vote, along with the last presidential election, shows Oklahoma is a strongly conservative state, or, at least, a strongly anti-liberal state. Oklahoma recently was home to a two-term Democratic governor, but in the 2008 presidential election every county in the state went to GOP candidate McCain. Two years later, the state’s dislike for President Obama appears to still be flourishing as the incumbent received just 57 percent of the state’s Democratic vote, a relatively low number for a current president running virtually unopposed in his party. However, Obama received just 48.5 percent of the Piedmont Democratic vote and actually lost to candidate Randall Terry in 12 other Oklahoma counties.
“There is no question,” said Hubbard when asked if he felt Oklahoma was a strongly anti-Obama state. “I have not visited with anyone, Republican or Democrat, that is in support for the president.”
Obviously, Obama has his supporters in the state, although not many. The Super Tuesday and 2008 presidential election may seem to peg Oklahoma as one of America’s most conservative, but in a recent Gallop Politics survey, Oklahoma didn’t even crack the top 10 of the most conservative states.
However, regardless of where Oklahoma ranks among conservative states, there is no question that local politics fall to the right and Washington Post writer Aaron Blake recently took a look at the state’s significant disapproval of the president with his article “Why Oklahoma is so anti-Obama.” Blake came to the conclusion that Oklahoma voters have a stark opposition to Great Society liberalism and that even registered Democrats in the state have a conservative foundation.
“Obama continues to prove his values are even outside the mainstream of the Democratic Party in Oklahoma,” GOP consultant Chris Wilson told Blake in his article.
Then again, part of the low numbers for Obama on March 6 could come from the fact that the only registered Democratic willing to vote in an insignificant election were those looking to make a statement. Youth turnout was also low, which makes up a large segment of Obama’s supporters. The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement reported that voters under the age of 30 accounted for just 5 percent of total voters on Super Tuesday in Oklahoma.
Down the road in Surrey Hills it was a similar conservative tone during the primary elections, but it was Romney that came out on top with 32 percent (249) of the vote, followed by Gingrich with 30 percent (233) and Santorum with 29.8 percent (232). Paul received 7.2 percent (56) of the Surrey Hills’ vote. Obama did better with Surrey Hills Democrats with 75 percent (66) of the vote.
With Oklahoma leaning so heavily to the right, it most likely indicates that Super Tuesday was the state’s best chance to make an impact on the November election. No matter who the nominee ends of being come November, Oklahoma is expected to once again be a red state, meaning neither Obama or the GOP candidate is likely to pay much attention to the state in the coming months. Santorum has used his victory in Oklahoma and other social conservative states as a claim he should be considered a serious contender, but Romney remains the frontrunner and is banking on the idea that he is perceived to be the Republican with the best chance to beat Obama in November, an idea Hubbard isn’t exactly sold on.
“I don’t know particularly how I feel about Romney being the only one who can beat (Obama),’ Hubbard said. “I don’t necessarily think Romney is a good debater at all. If I were going for someone to beat Obama in a debate it would be Newt Gingrich. Voters think he is the smartest but they aren’t sure what he is going to do because of his record.”
The presidential election is still eight months away, making it too early to set any real prediction on what the outcome will be. But no matter what happens on November 6, Oklahoma’s political identity will most likely be defined by a strong support of the Republican candidate and a deep dislike for Obama.