Tuesday night Rep. James Lankford (R-OK) easily defeated former Oklahoma House Speaker TW Shannon in Oklahoma’s US Senate Republican primary. Lankford will move on to the general election this November and likely fill the seat which is being vacated by retiring Republican Senator Tom Coburn. Despite Shannon, the first African American speaker of Oklahoma’s House of Representatives, receiving endorsements from big names within the Tea Party leading up to the primary, Lankford cruised to victory, 57% to 34%.
Who exactly were these heavy hitters that campaigned for Shannon? Well, one kingmaker that came out for Shannon was none other than 2008 Republican Vice Presidential nominee and half-term Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin. The former mayor of Wasilla jumped on board the Shannon express in March. Back then, when she gave her endorsement, she wrote the normal Palin word salad about self-reliance, entrepreneurship and fighting government waste. She lauded Shannon’s conservative credentials and claimed that Lankford had the backing of “Beltway insiders.”
Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) is another Tea Party darling who endorsed Shannon in this race. In April, the Senator sent out the following email to supporters of Shannon:
Specifics, not spin. Policies, not personalities. That’s what this election is all about.
This year, when candidates ask for your vote — make them earn it. The kind of leaders we need won’t just tell you what they’re against. They’ll tell you what they’re for, and why.
We have to demand more from those who serve in Washington — and the best way to send that message is to elect real conservative reformers.
One of those proven conservative reformers is running for Senate in Oklahoma and today I am proud to offer T.W. Shannon my support.
Unlike others running for Congress, T.W. Shannon actually has a conservative record of achievement. As a state representative and then Speaker of the House, T.W. helped reform Oklahoma’s welfare programs and instituted new accountability measures, like work requirements. He’s fought hard to lower Oklahomans’ tax burden and help working- and middle-class families. And he has been a leader on lifting regulatory roadblocks that kill jobs and diminish economic activity.
T.W. is the kind of conservative leader who will help us move a reform agenda in Washington. He is a staunch opponent of Obamacare, will fight to repeal it, and supports proposals to let the free market, not the government, determine health care costs and services. He supports Rand Paul’s National Right to Work Act because hard-working Americans should be free to choose whether or not to join or contribute to a union. And he will help me and my friend Ted Cruz protect the right of every American to express their religious beliefs.
T.W. is the new kind of reformer we need in Congress and I am proud to endorse him.
Finally, the one man who was supposed to bring it home for Shannon failed to deliver. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), ringleader of last October’s federal government shutdown, endorsed Shannon in mid-April. Even more interesting about the endorsement of Shannon is that Cruz had stated days before that he was going to stay out of endorsing candidates in Republican primaries, preferring to let the grass roots decide the candidates’ fates. However, this seemed more of a cop-out to cover for the fact that he didn’t want to endorse his fellow Texan, Republican Senator John Cornyn, in his primary battle. At the same time, Cruz didn’t want his name to be attached to Cornyn’s Tea Party primary challenger, Rep, Steve Stockman (R-TX), who had no earthly chance to defeat Cornyn due to running an absolutely hideous campaign.
After Cruz endorsed Shannon, he appeared at a campaign event, alongside Lee and Palin, to stump for Shannon. During the campaign rally in Tulsa, the Tea Party trifecta whipped the crowd into an anti-government frenzy. Words like ‘patriot,’ ‘freedom,’ and ‘Constitution’ were tossed around so frequently you would have thought the group was playing a drinking game. Cruz stated that they needed someone like Shannon in Washington to help “retire” Harry Reid. Palin said a lot of Palin things. Overall, it was the kind of event you’d expect with this guest list.
And, in the end, these heavy hitters could not get anyone to come out and vote for Shannon. No matter how you slice and dice it, a 23-point loss is pretty embarrassing, especially when you consider the amount of effort that was exerted by these politicians in support of Shannon. When it comes to Cruz and Palin, the level of influence and the impact they have on elections this cycle has been greatly exaggerated. Neither are the kingmaker that certain members of the media want to portray them as.
Justin Baragona is the Managing Editor at Politicus Sports as well as Senior Editor at PoliticusUSA. He was a political writer for 411Mania.com before joining PoliticusUSA. Politically, Justin considers himself a liberal but also a realist and pragmatist. Currently, Justin lives in St. Louis, MO and is married. Besides writing, he also runs his own business after spending a number of years in the corporate world. You can follow Justin on Twitter either with his personal handle (@justinbaragona) or the Sports site’s (@PoliticusSports).