Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Pundits Play Up Oklahoma's Role in GOP Primaries

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Pundits Play Up Oklahoma's Role in GOP Primaries

Article excerpt

This might be the year that Oklahoma's conservative claim to fame could actually give the state an important role to play in presidential politics, pundits said.

"Thank God the states that have held primaries prior to us have been unable to make a clear choice," said Bill Shapard, CEO of SoonerPoll.com. "Because that's the only way Oklahoma may play any role at all.

"In fact, I think that being one of the reddest states, Oklahoma ought to play a greater role in the nomination process," he said. "This is a very rare year for Oklahoma, a big opportunity."

Oklahoma GOP Chairman Matt Pinnell agreed to at least part of Shapard's assessment, as the last presidential election found every Oklahoma county voting against a Barack Obama victory, the only state in the country to be coated with a single party color. So Oklahoma deserves to be paid heed in the presidential primary scheduled for March 6, he said.

"A lot of people like to say Oklahoma is a fly-over state. But I don't think that's the case this year," Pinnell said. "I think Oklahoma will be very relevant in the presidential process. ... Whoever wins the most votes in Oklahoma, I think that Republican candidate can claim the mantle that they won the reddest state in the country. And if you want to know what conservative voters think, then look no further than Oklahoma. It's a valuable talking point."

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney seems to have a strong lead over former House Speaker Newt Gingrich to win the Republican nomination after his recent victory in Florida, but pundits can't agree on the most likely scenario of how the endgame will play out. Gingrich, who won earlier primaries, has refused to concede even the slightest advantage, making a drawn-out fight for leadership of the Republican Party likely.

"We're not a winner-take-all state anymore, and that's important to note," Pinnell said of the state's 43 delegates. …

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