Gingrich visits Oklahoma seeking primary support, and delegate strength

Newt Gingrich is making campaign stops in both Tulsa and Oklahoma City today (Monday, February 20), hoping to draw support in the March 6 Republican presidential primary. 

The former U.S. House Speaker is scheduled for a 2 p.m. appearance in the Mabee Center (7777 South Lewis Avenue) at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa. He will then travel of Oklahoma City for a 6:30 p.m. event at the Jim Thorpe Museum (4040 North Lincoln Boulevard). The city event is free and open to the public as part of the party’s Victory 2012 series.

State Republican party chairman Matt Pinnell said, in comments sent today to CapitolBeatOK, “We are excited to welcome yet another Presidential candidate to the Reddest State in the Country. If you can win Oklahoma, you can win the conservative vote nationwide. We welcome our Republican candidates to Oklahoma over the coming weeks as they compete to win our ‘Reddest State’ primary.”

Gingrich is the third of the Grand Old Party’s hopefuls to visit the state recently. Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum drew an enthusiastic crowd in the wake of his trio of victories early this month. 

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney campaigned here last fall, speaking both to a high-dollar fundraiser and a rally at the Thorpe Museum.

With state Democratic party headquarters just north of the Thorpe Museum, Wallace Collins, state chairman, gathered a few dozen protestors to deride the Romney visit last year. In an alert to party activists yesterday, he called on fellow Democrats to join him again for a 6 p.m. Counter-rally during the Gingrich event. 

In Oklahoma’s March 6 primary, a 15 percent threshold of support is needed for delegates. The quartet of remaining hopefuls – Gingrich, Santorum, Romney, and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas – each appear strong enough to reach that level if the primary vote were held today.

In an interview with CapitolBeatOK just before Santorum’s visit, Pinnell said the candidate visits were another sign that Oklahoma’s primary will impact the nominating process. Concerning the “reddest state” designation (a reference to the fact that John McCain won all 77 counties in his race against Barack Obama in 2008), Pinnell reflected, “I’d rather be me than Wallace Collins.”

Pinnell said President Obama’s decisions on several issues are solidifying Oklahoma’s conservative inclinations, including the “kill” of the Keystone Oil pipeline project, and the administration mandate that religious groups provide coverage of abortafacients and contraceptive services under the health care law.

Nationally, Pinnell asserts Republicans will win in November despite the spirited primary season. He observed, “The president is not leading on the key issues of our time. We’re not better off than we were four years ago. He is a president who was not prepared for the job. We can’t afford to keep him in the job after the next election.”