Mitt Romney's campaign gained steam this week with primary victories in Michigan and Arizona, and now he moves ahead to Super Tuesday where, in Oklahoma, he will face Republican voters who have mixed feelings about him.
Romney in Oklahoma has trailed the other GOP contenders from the start of the campaign. Presently Rick Santorum is the favorite — 70 percent of likely Republican voters surveyed in February by SoonerPoll.com had a favorable opinion of the former Pennsylvania senator. Santorum's overt social conservatism sits well with Oklahoma conservatives, as does his demeanor, which may be easier to warm to than Romney's buttoned-down persona. This may explain Santorum outpacing Romney (and Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul) in the area of honesty and trustworthiness.
But the area in which Romney far outstrips the field is the one Oklahomans should note when they go to the polls Tuesday. Forty-three percent of those surveyed said that if victory is the main objective in November, then Romney is the best pick. Santorum garnered 23 percent support on that question, Gingrich just 19 percent.
This cannot be overstated: The objective in November absolutely is to defeat Barack Obama and begin repairing the damage done by his administration. Oklahoma Republicans may like Santorum the person, and may think Gingrich has the best experience (49 percent said so in this poll), but they realize Romney is the GOP contender most likely and best equipped to give Obama a run for his money.
Our hope is that that's reflected when the primary ballots are counted next week. A victory by Romney in Oklahoma on Super Tuesday would show that this deep red state cares a great deal about social issues, yes, but cares first and foremost about ensuring the economic future of this country.