This week, word began trickling through social media that Gov. Kevin Stitt is looking at a presidential run. While there is no official confirmation that Stitt is considering this fool’s errand, he is making the moves that all starry-eyed conservative politicians make when plotting a White House move.
On Tuesday, Stitt met with Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Gilad Erdan — you know, like all Midwestern governors do when they are going about the business of Midwestern governance. Since conservatives have made unequivocal support for Israel a litmus test for advancing up the political food chain, this seemed like a box check.
While in Washington, D.C., he also met with U.S. Secretary of the Army and the Army Chief of Staff General James C. McConville, which could arguably be about continued support of Fort Sill and other state installations.
But Stitt also reportedly sat down with pastors in our state to discuss the possibility of a 2024 run, so from this point forward, the best way to view Stitt’s actions is through the prism of a presidential hopeful.
OPINION by George Lang
Personally, I don’t see Stitt getting anywhere on the road to the White House. As an archconservative politician in an increasingly arch, increasingly conservative state, Stitt still barely ekes out an approval rating in the low 50s. Desultory numbers at home do not typically constitute a launching pad to the national stage.
And make no mistake, Stitt earned those numbers by being on the wrong side of tribal sovereignty and the McGirt decision, lifting the moratorium on executions, signing a bill prohibiting the teaching of Critical Race Theory, buying $2 million worth of hydroxychloroquine that was utterly worthless in the treatment of COVID-19, expanding gun ownership and being a putz when he staged a barbecue in front of a People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) sign.
That event, in particular, felt like the kind of polarized grandstanding one does when trying to curry favor with the chronically aggrieved citizenry that now form the base of the Republican Party.
Stitt likely has an outsized perception of both his popularity at home and potential political value at the national level. But last year, he hired a communications staffer from the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) to build an adversarial relationship with state media. As The Washington Post’s Dave Weigel likes to tweet whenever a trial balloon floats past his periphery, “He’s running.”
So what is Stitt’s value as a national candidate? As much as I hate to further diminish Oklahoma in the eyes of the nation, our state simply does not have the strategic importance the GOP values right now. National strategists will look at Stitt and a similarly retrograde chowderhead like Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida and say, “We have Oklahoma. We need Florida.”
By the time candidates start pestering diner patrons in Iowa and New Hampshire, the talk is going to be about who can take Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. It will be about purple states like Arizona and maybe Texas. From a strategic side, the governor of Oklahoma enjoys no pull with those states — especially Texas.
Stitt has weaponized wedge issues since taking office and his largely dismissive COVID-19 policies and gun advocacy are certainly attractive to the Qanon-adjacent conservative electorate, but it is not certain Stitt has any more national value than someone like U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas.
By the way, if there is any way we can get those two to square off in a science bee, it should be done.
Last Updated June 16, 2021, 1:52 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor