Former Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon is surging in the Oklahoma Senate Republican primary race and now leads Rep. James Lankford, according to a new survey from a pro-Shannon group.
That’s a gain of 19 points from another survey in mid-March, when Lankford led Shannon by 9 points.
The third candidate in the race, former state Sen. Randy Brogdon, takes 7 percent support, but his share of the vote would be enough to send the primary to a runoff election, which is mandated if no candidate tops 50 percent of the vote.
The poll is the latest indication that Shannon has much of the momentum in the race behind him, after picking up a number of big-name conservative endorsements. This week, FreedomWorks became the latest national conservative group to back him, while Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) endorsed him last week.
The race to replace retiring Sen. Tom Coburn (R) has been a battle for the conservative mantle, and Lankford, though one of the most conservative members in the House, was panned by conservative groups from the first day of his candidacy.
He recently told The Hill that he’s not worried about the suggestion that Shannon is surging, calling it “spin” from Shannon’s advisers.
“They are masters at spin, and they make me laugh at some of the things that they step out and say. Because they go out, and they try to create a perception that’s not actually reality, and I understand what they’re trying to accomplish. The political game says you don’t have to actually go for the facts; you have to actually go for the spin,” he said in the halls of the Capitol.
Lankford spokesman Tyler Harber said the new survey doesn’t match up with the campaign's internal polling numbers, but he declined to offer details.
“Any pollster will tell you that sampling a primary population is extremely tough. We’re not putting a lot of weight into a POS survey in such a volatile race. They don’t have the experience in Oklahoma that The Tarrance Group does, and our internal numbers tell a different story,” he said.
“But, we aren’t going to get distracted with releasing competing surveys. The Lankford campaign will continue to focus on Oklahoma voters while the Pro-Shannon groups continue to spend a lot of time and money trying to convince folks inside the beltway that T.W. Shannon can be competitive against Congressman Lankford.”
Lankford is still seen positively by the GOP primary electorate, according to the new survey, which shows 53 percent of respondents view him favorably. But 63 percent view Shannon favorably, a 15-point increase from March and an indication the endorsements have been a boon for him.
That could change, however, as the race kicks into high gear in the final two months.
The survey was conducted among 500 likely GOP primary voters from April 21–22 via landline and cellphone and has a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points.