A footnote to my colleague Byron York’s Examiner column today, “Obama headed for defeat in Keystone fight.” Only a sense that he was losing, and losing badly, on this issue could have prompted Barack Obama to have traveled to Cushing, Oklahoma, for a photo op in front of a bunch of pipeline pipes. Presidents seeking reelection often travel to target states, as Obama has (see this July 2011 USAToday story) and as George W. Bush and Bill Clinton did before him. And they like to appear at friendly venues, where they can be reasonably sure of finding enthusiastically favorable audiences. As of July 2011 Obama had missed visiting only 10 states—heavily Democratic Vermont, which has been graced by only two presidential visits in 35 years—and nine heavily Republican states (Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah).
Oklahoma certainly does not qualify as a target state. In 2008 it voted 66%-34% for John McCain. It gave McCain a higher percentage than any other state and gave Obama his third lowest percentage, slightly above what he got in Wyoming and Utah which, unlike Oklahoma, had third candidates on the ballot. Cushing is in Payne County, Oklahoma, which voted 63%-37% for McCain, slightly less than the statewide average. But Obama could not have found an Obama county in the state; all 77 voted for McCain.