Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich visited Tulsa and Oklahoma City on Feb. 20 and addressed the Legislature the following day. Texas Congressman Ron Paul came to Oklahoma City for a Feb. 25 appearance outside the state Capitol.
Thus far this campaign season, the state has been visited by Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and businessman Herman Cain, all of whom have since dropped out. The other candidates who previously visited include former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.
During his appearance, Gingrich drew a crowd of around 500 in the Jim Thorpe Association and Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame. He said re-electing President Barack Obama would be an unqualified disaster, and blamed the presidents energy policies for the rising cost of gasoline.
What I can guarantee you is the Obama program of scarcity guarantees higher prices and fewer jobs and the Gingrich program of abundance guarantees lower prices and more jobs, Gingrich said.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, however, domestic petroleum production is at its highest level since 2003, and the number of domestic crude oil rigs has increased by 159 percent since 2008.
Paul, by contrast, did not devote much time to the energy industry. He spoke about his proposal to abolish the Federal Reserve and the importance of government not infringing on individuals personal liberties.
Paul had one of the largest crowds of any of the GOP candidates to visit the state, with far more than 1,000 people attending.
The crowd was diverse. Some proclaimed to be tea party supporters; others sported dreadlocks.
Oklahoma GOP Chairman Matt Pinnell said the spreading of the primaries by the two parties has successfully pushed candidates to visit more states. He added that Oklahoma, which in 2008 saw every county won by Republican presidential nominee John McCain, will be a coup for whoever wins the state.
If you want to be able to close the deal with the Republican base, theres no better place to do it than Oklahoma, as the reddest state in the country, Pinnell said.
Photos by Mark Hancock