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Why Oklahoma is so anti-Obama

at 04:30 PM ET, 03/07/2012

Oklahoma doesn’t like President Obama very much.

Obama lost 15 counties in the Democratic primary in the Sooner State on Tuesday, and he took just 57 percent of the vote statewide despite none of his little-known opponents having much (read: any) money to contest the state.
Taylor Lenhart, 13 and pal Shelby Nealy, 14, check out who's coming and going at the Agriculture Building parking lot just before the start of the annual Bonus Livestock Auction. Washington, Okla. is a conservative town that prides itself on family values, good schools and it's rural culture. (Michael S.Williamson/The Washington Post)

It was hardly the first time the state thumbed its nose at Obama. In the 2008 presidential campaign, no state gave him a smaller percentage of the vote than the Sooner State, which voted 66 percent to 34 percent for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

Which begs the question: Why?

While Oklahoma is certainly a conservative state, it’s not necessarily the state you would think would be the most opposed to Obama in the U.S.. In fact, in the most recent Gallup state rankings, Oklahoma wasn’t even listed among the 10 most conservative states in the country.

The state also recently had a popular two-term Democratic governor, Brad Henry, and has a popular Democratic congressman, retiring Rep. Dan Boren (the son of a well-liked Democratic former governor and senator).

GOP consultant and Oklahoma native Chris Wilson says it comes down to values.

“Be it health care, the Keystone Pipeline, religious liberty or any other myriad of issues, Obama continues to prove his values are even outside the mainstream of the Democratic Party in Oklahoma,” Wilson said.. “However, if Obama is able to successfully push for a college football playoff, that could all change.”

Jokes aside, part of the reason that Oklahoma has voted so strongly against Obama appears to be demographics.

Oklahoma pollster Keith Gaddie noted that Obama started out with a respectable approval rating in the state, despite his big loss in 2008. But it fell apart quickly from there.

“I’d like to say that its a function of the Keystone Pipeline decision or three-dollar gas, but I think it is more profoundly cultural,” Gaddie said. “These voters come from the old agrarian populist tradition in Oklahoma, rather than from Great Society liberalism. They dislike the president, dislike his liberalism, and they were afforded an opportunity to vote directly against him, so they took it.

“It is not a rebellion of most Democrats, but it is representative (or symptomatic) of what has been going on here since 2008.”

Other demographic factors also come into play.

While other conservative states have small bastions of Democratic strength — Obama wonSalt Lake County in Utah and did well in Boise , Idaho, for example — that’s not really the case in Oklahoma. Even in the most urban area of Oklahoma, Oklahoma City-based Oklahoma County, Obama took just 42 percent of the vote. Obama lost all 77 counties in Oklahoma in 2008.

Also, unlike some other conservative, Southern states, Oklahoma doesn’t have concentrated minority populations that turned out strong for Obama in 2008. While Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina are all at least 15 percent African-American, Oklahoma is less than 8 percent black.

On Tuesday, Democrats in 15 of its counties — including 12 that chose anti-abortion rights activist Randall Terry, who has raised less than $125,000 for his campaign — made another statement about how they feel about the president.

That statement: We don’t like you.

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