POSTED ON FEBRUARY 29, 2012:
On the Road to The White House
Never have so many said so little to so few. But, itís all politicking in the flyover states and we love the attention.
One of the biggest ongoing stories of 2012 is, and will be, the presidential election. Along the way, Oklahomans are tuning in to the ridiculous, smart, funny and downright awful campaign moves and contretemps of Republican hopefuls.
So, who resonates with Okies? To test the political waters, we asked four Tulsans with four different backgrounds about their thoughts and opinions on the current slate of Republican presidential hopefuls, what issues resonate most with them, and their predictions on what will happen in November.
The four Tulsans we chose were: the lovely bloggers at local liberal blog AltTulsa.net (represented by John Coward); a brand-new dad, former candidate for Oklahoma State Senate and Independent Gary Casey; a red-blooded, Rush Limbaugh-lovin' Republican, independent contractor and musician Ken Winkle Jr.; and former moderate-turned-liberal, retired pharmaceutical representative Johanna Tuberville.
While our two liberal pundits wouldn't consider voting for a Republican, they have their own ideas about which Republicans are resonating most with Oklahomans.
"We have no dog in the GOP food fight," Coward said. He and the bloggers at AltTulsa wouldn't consider voting for any of the Republican candidates, but said they preferred now-withdrawn Jon Huntsman and Mitt Romney over the others.
"At least they are serious adults," Coward said. "A term that doesn't apply to the likes of Rick Perry and Ron Paul."
Casey disagreed. Either you hate Ron Paul or you love him, and Casey is in the latter camp. He has high hopes for what Paul might be able to accomplish in office. "He'll bring our troops home and exercise prudence in foreign policy," Casey said. "He'll end that money-sucking, minority crushing war on drugs, protect our civil liberties, audit those dastardly bankers at the Federal Reserve, get us back to a sound monetary policy, get rid of overbearing bureaucracies..." And he could go on, but you get the point.
Despite Casey's Paul-love, he admits Romney is the Republicans' frontrunner. However, he's not sure Romney's highly polished rhetoric (and coif) resonate with Oklahomans. "[Romney] only garnered 25 percent of the vote in 2008 with a pretty populated primary ballot in Oklahoma," Casey pointed out. "I think it's conceivable that Romney could lose again, but it depends on who is still in the race after Florida."
And sure enough, Romney swept Florida -- taking home the win with 46 percent of the vote compared to Gingrich's 31.9 percent, Santorum's 13.3 percent and Paul's 7 percent.
Winkle said he thinks Santorum "tugs on the favorite heartstrings" of Oklahoma Republicans, "but they might go [with Gingrich] because he once shook the hand of Ronald Reagan," he joked.
Tuberville said she feels like "whoever eventually runs against President Barack Obama will resonate most with Oklahomans. "Considering that 70 percent of our voters thought Sharia law was and is a real threat really demonstrated the high 'gullible' factor in the state," she explained.
Tuberville said she thinks Romney will ultimately take the nom. "He has the least amount of baggage," she said, then corrected the statement slightly, "Well, maybe not the least amount, but the least offensive baggage."
Oklahoma was the only state in the union to go completely red in the 2008 presidential election. All 77 of Oklahoma's counties went to McCain.
Despite our panel's general consensus that Romney will likely end up with the nomination, they are concerned about possible stumbling blocks he'll face. "I'm curious to see if Okies can overcome their fear of accepting Mormons into the Christian family and vote for Romney," Winkle said.
Overall, our panel was divided on who is the best and worst candidates. The opinions reflect a greater sense of unease among the Okie conservative electorate who isn't thrilled with the current slew of Republican candidates.
The One We Love to Hate
Early in the race, SoonerPoll showed Gingrich on top with 33 percent of the Oklahoma vote. But our commenters had ambivalent feelings about Gingrich. Most of the four begrudgingly gave him credit for his unique political mind, but think the '90s wunderkind may be past his prime.
"We think Newt is one of the finest minds of the 1990s, a legend in his own mind," Coward said.
Gingrich's reputation has suffered many blows over the years, and the most damaging have been the ones he's inflicted upon himself (asking for a divorce from his first wife -- who lay in her hospital bed while she recovered from a cancer surgery; philandering during his second marriage while pressing for Bill Clinton's impeachment or more recently advocating the arrest of federal judges who make "radical" rulings). Coward calls him a "flawed candidate."
"Besides the oversized ego, there's the whole Freddie Mac lobbyist problem and a raft of ethical issues from the 1990s," Coward said. "Will Oklahomans choose a twice-divorced, thrice-married GOP candidate?"
Casey isn't a fan of Gingrich either. "I think he represents the status quo in Washington," Casey said.
Tuberville also cited Gingrich as her least favorite candidate. "He helped propel divisive politics to a whole new era when he was Speaker of the House," she said. "Newt is everything that's wrong with politics."
Turning the Table
Our panel is unanimous: Romney, like it or not, will take the nom and go head-to-head with the president this November.
Despite our panel's feelings about the GOP candidates, a relatively late surge may put Santorum out in front. After a visit to the Mabee Center on Feb. 9, where he spoke to a crowd of 4,000-plus Okies, Santorum pulled ahead in the SoonerPoll.
In a surprising turn of events, the GOP hopeful won the Minnesota, Colorado and Missouri primaries and is currently projected to take the Sooner state with a 43 percent victory.
Who will ultimately win the Republican nomination? On March 6, Oklahoma will have its say in this national debate through our closed primary (only registered Republicans are allowed to vote). Oklahoma has a total of 43 delegates up for grabs. In the past month, Gingrich, Santorum and Paul have all made campaign stops in the Sooner State, drawing thousands of Okies as they stumped for delegates.
In 2008, Arizona Senator John McCain won the Oklahoma primary with 37 percent of the votes. Romney finished third with 25 percent, while Paul won three percent of primary votes.
Stay tuned into UTW this election season as we continue to let our thoughtful readers break down the latest political shenanigans and give a Tulsa-centric view on that biggest of national spectacles that comes 'round every four years: the fight for the White House.
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