Cushing mayor Evert Rossiter says that, despite the president’s decision, he expects Obama will receive the “red carpet” treatment when he visits the oilfield community as part of a four-state tour on Wednesday and Thursday.
Obama won the state’s Democratic presidential primary on March 6 even with a challenge from an anti-abortion activist who won 18 percent of the vote. Despite party rules that said Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry was entitled to a share of the delegates, state party officials said Friday they wouldn’t give Terry any because he’s not a “bona fide Democrat.”
Obama’s visit to Oklahoma will be the first since he took office. Obama also will visit Nevada, New Mexico and Ohio. The tour has been set up to tout the administration’s energy policies. Cushing, which bills itself as the pipeline capital of the world, is a major hub suffering with a glut of oil.
The administration has suggested developing an Oklahoma-to-Texas pipeline to alleviate the bottleneck. And Obama has been criticized for delaying the Keystone XL project, which would stretch from Canada to the Gulf Coast and run through Oklahoma.
“I expect they’d give him a great reception. I believe the folks around here are wise enough to understand that if he can come and see what we’re all about, it will affect his decision, if he has to make another decision on the Keystone Pipeline project,” Rossiter said. “I believe they would give him an open-arms red carpet treatment.”
Because of Obama’s poor showing here in 2008, Oklahoma has been dubbed the “reddest of the red” states. In Payne County, where Cushing is located, GOP candidate John McCain won 18,435 votes and Obama 10,601. The county is also home to Oklahoma State University in Stillwater.
During the Super Tuesday presidential primary, Obama won 57 percent of the statewide vote among Democrats, but barely topped 42 percent in the Democratic Party-held 2nd District that stretches from the foothills of the Ozark Mountains in the northeast to the Red River border with Texas.
Matt Pinnell, chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Party, said Obama’s visit is a “slap in the face” because the Keystone pipeline would have created jobs in the state.
“After rejecting the Keystone Pipeline to satisfy his liberal environmental base, he’s now trying to have it both ways,” Pinnell said. “He’s trying to tout energy independence but he’s done everything to destroy the industry.”
Democratic Party chairman Wallace Collins said he’s thrilled that Obama’s coming, even though the president isn’t that popular with many voters.
“I think he will be well-received,” Collins said. “I realize he won’t win the election in Oklahoma, but I believe a lot of Oklahomans support him and recognize he’s trying to do the right thing.”
The Democratic Party on Friday said it won’t award delegates to Terry because they say he didn’t follow the party’s procedures and because he has proclaimed himself a “lifelong Republican.”
“He’s not a bona fide Democrat,” said Trav Robertson, the executive director of the state party.
Terry complained he was the victim of “political insider trading.”
Before the Oklahoma primary, Obama had won all of the Democratic delegates awarded this year, national party officials said.
Robertson likened Terry’s missing delegates to those that GOP hopeful Rick Santorum failed to qualify for in some states.
“There is precedent for what we’re doing here,” Robertson said. “It’s pretty straightforward.”