OK: Turnout Close to '96 Record
Updated: 5:15 p.m.
By Marc Kaufman
Rain continued to fall across much of Oklahoma today, and some snow was forecast in the north of the state. Nonetheless, officials continue to predict record turnouts for both contests. State Election Board Secretary Michael Clingman said he expected about 550,000 people to vote -- the highest total ever except for 1996, which was driven by a controversial state ballot question that proposed freezing property taxes.
Election Board Secretary Michael Clingman predicted a strong turnout -- perhaps over 30 percent in each party -- but said it was too early to be sure.
"I don't see why both sides shouldn't set a record," he said, explaining that many voters were pleased to be taking part in a selection process that is usually finished by the time Oklahomans vote.
"Usually one side or the other is decided by now," Clingman said. "Given the fact that you have both sides with undecided candidates for front-runners, that's why I think there will be a record turnout."
Recent polls have shown Sens. Hillary Clinton and John McCain to be ahead in their races, but analysts say there could be surprises because candidates previously popular in the state -- former senators John Edwards and Fred Thompson -- have left the race. Edwards had been running a strong second to Clinton in the Democratic race, and Thompson was doing well among Republicans. The most recent USA Survey poll had Sen. Barack Obama well behind Clinton, and Mitt Romney well behind both McCain and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee.
Both primaries are open only to members of their own party. Democratic voters will select 39 delegates, all chosen by proportional votes from the state's five congressional districts. The eight superdelegates have not endorsed candidates so far.
The Republican contest is winner-take-all, with 23 delegates selected at-large and 15 from the congressional districts. The party also selects three superdelegates.
Romney was the only candidate to visit Oklahoma on Monday. His campaign thinks he can pull an upset there, and he has visited four times in recent weeks.
Other candidates have spent little time in Oklahoma, although former president Bill Clinton did stump for his wife, and Huckabee spoke in Oklahoma City and Tulsa last week. While there, he defended comments made the day before that Romney had yet to reach "political puberty."
"I meant that on a number of issues, he had not yet discovered who he was," Huckabee said.
McCain has won endorsements from state leaders including Sen. Tom Coburn and House Speaker Lance Cargill. Clinton was endorsed by former state attorney general Mike Turben. Sen. James Inhofe had endorsed Thompson.
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