OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma Republicans proud of their conservative heritage selected from among the four remaining GOP presidential contenders as part of Tuesday's collection of primaries and caucuses nationwide, though several voters lamented that not enough options were on the ballot.
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum was poised to have his best showing here of all 10 Super Tuesday nominating contests nationwide, believing his brand of conservatism would resonate with voters who prevented President Barack Obama from winning a single county in 2008.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas U.S. Rep. Ron Paul were also on the ballot.
"Ronald Reagan isn't available anymore, what can I say?" Tricia Tetreault said outside her Edmond precinct after casting a ballot for Gingrich.
Oklahoma was dubbed "the reddest of the red states" after Obama's poor showing here four years ago, and Santorum in two recent visits dubbed the state "ground zero of the conservative movement." His strong opposition to abortion and gay rights hit home with Linda Turner, a retired nurse from Norman who considers herself a born-again Christian.
"I think he is very strong," Turner said after casting her ballot for Santorum at the Freeman Baptist Church in northeast Norman. "He doesn't waiver or fluctuate like Obama. Santorum, I feel like he would stand on the morals that our country was based on."
Rendon Chambers, a political science student at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, said he voted for Romney, believing the former Massachusetts governor's experience heading the private equity firm Bain Capital best positioned him to address the nation's economic problems.
"Rick Santorum is way too far right and Newt has way too much baggage," he said. "I believe Romney has the ability to reach across the aisle and work with members of both parties."
But others weren't as pleased with the names on the ballot.
Herbert Skidmore, a retired teacher from Norman, said he cast a blank ballot and vowed to change his party registration from Republican to independent.
"I am so frustrated with the slate of candidates that the only reason I came was to keep my voting record intact," said Skidmore, who said he first registered as a Republican in 1970.
Bob Hauge, 46, an attorney from Tulsa, said he voted for Paul, calling him "the lesser of all the evils of the Republican Party."
"He was the most attractive candidate of the pack," Hauge said. "He just seems not to be quite as bound by the party as some of the others. I don't seem to think he is as bound to the Republican platform."
Regardless of who won the Republican primary and took the larger share of the state's 40 delegates, Oklahoma's seven electoral votes could be a virtual lock for the GOP nominee in the fall. Even though Democrats outnumber Republicans in a state with populist roots, the state has not voted for a Democratic presidential candidate in a general election since Lyndon Johnson in 1964.
While most of the attention has been focused on the GOP side of the ticket, Democrats also will select a nominee in Tuesday's primary. Appearing on the Democratic primary ballot with Obama are Bob Ely, of Illinois; Darcy Richardson, of Florida; Jim Rogers, of Midwest City; and Randall Terry, of West Virginia.
Ginny Freeman, 64, an insurance agent from Moore, voted to re-nominate the president.
"I think he's done a very good job under very adverse conditions," Freeman said.Comment on this story
Some Oklahoma political pundits predicted that Oklahoma could be the first state where someone other than Obama picks up a Democratic delegate. Under Democratic Party rules, any candidate can win a share of delegates who receives 15 percent of the vote either statewide or in any one of Oklahoma's five congressional districts.
Tuesday's was Oklahoma's first statewide election in which voters must prove their identity before voting. Voters without proof of identification may cast a provisional ballot and sign an affidavit.
Turnout was expected to be lower than the 40 percent of registered voters who cast ballots in the 2008 primary, when both parties had competitive contests.
Associated Press writer Ken Miller in Edmond and Katie Fretland in Tulsa contributed to this report.