By Patrick B. McGuigan, editor
OKLAHOMA CITY – With the Oklahoma Republican presidential primary slated for March 1, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, hopes to build momentum with good showings in Iowa, New Hampshire and other early states.
For many Republicans, he is an appealing alternative to the controversial Donald Trump, deemed the national front-runner in opinion polls.
Rubio’s manner and style, as well as his policy prescriptions and rhetoric, are conservative. Still, his approach differs sharply from his Senate colleague, Ted Cruz of Texas, who has surged in some recent surveys.
While Rubio and Cruz share many policy goals, the two have clashed over immigration policy (Rubio is more open to reform, Cruz presses to put new hurdles in place of immigrants) and security policy (Rubio argues to retain robust surveillance powers for intelligence agencies, Cruz wants to scale back such abilities).
Rubio outlined his vision for energy in “A New American Century” during an Oklahoma City speech on September 2.
He contends “energy resources sustain our human resources,” pointing to the high percentage of Oklahoma jobs linked to natural gas and oil companies. He said wise policies are needed to address “legitimate environmental concerns,” but he assailed “overstated” and distorted attacks on resource development.
In the tradition of the late Ronald Reagan, Rubio said “private innovators are best suited” to fashion future energy policy, including “renewables.” He wants to trust “the future to entrepreneurs and scientists” in energy exploration, “not government bureaucrats.”
In response to a question, he lauded the potential of natural gas as a bridge to future development, saying renewables alone would not be sufficient for economic needs.
The senator from the Sunshine State advocates a “regulatory budget” to limit the economic impact of federal regulations in any given budget year.
As for health care policy, he said Americans have to choose whether to retain the controversial Affordable Care Act — barely enacted in 2010 and narrowly sustained in federal court decisions despite frequent congressional efforts to undo parts of “ObamaCare.”
Rubio asserts, “We have a health care system today that increases cost, lowers access and encourages employers not to hire more people. Over time, that is going to wear on the American people.”
Among conservative Republican legislators in the Oklahoma Legislature, Rubio has the most support of any GOP hopeful.
As of Jan. 6, his backers included Senators David Holt of Oklahoma City, Kim David of Porter, Eddie Fields of Wynona, Jack Fry of Midwest City, AJ Griffin of Guthrie, Wayne Shaw of Grove, Frank Simpson of Springer, Jason Smalley of Stroud, and Roger Thompson of Okemah.
House members supporting Rubio include Reps. Josh Cockroft of Wanette, Randy Grau of Edmond, Katie Henke of Tulsa, Dan Kirby of Tulsa, Terry O’Donnell of Tulsa, Leslie Osborn of Mustang, Paul Wesselhoft of Moore, and Harold Wright of Weatherford.
Also supporting Rubio are energy titan Larry Nichols of Oklahoma City, who came aboard in December and U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin of Tulsa.
Announcing his support, Nichols said, “As I have witnessed all of the candidates during past several months, during debates, speeches and interviews; I think that Marco Rubio is the candidate that’s most likely to be able unite this fractured country and move the United States forward.”
In November. U.S. Rep. Mullin was among a trio of congressional members who declared Rubio was their preference.
At the time, Mullin said, “I have always been clear that the person I will support for president must be a true leader — someone who can unite our country and move our nation forward.”
Sen. Holt, an advocate of election law reform is Rubio’s state chairman, and filed the necessary papers for his candidate to secure a spot on the primary ballot.
Holt, who serves on the national board of legislative advisors for GOPAC – a group that grooms young legislators for higher office — has argued passionately for the hopeful.
He said in a statement provided to The City Sentinel: “Marco’s candidacy is resonating with Oklahomans, as evidenced by his strong list of supporters from the Oklahoma Legislature. These folks come from across the state and from all walks of life, but like me, they all believe in Marco’s message.
“I believe Marco will perform very strongly in Oklahoma’s Republican presidential primary, and then I know Marco will win Oklahoma next November on his way to becoming the next President of the United States.”