Even before polls showed that conservative Oklahoma Senate candidate T.W. Shannon had slashed a 35-point deficit to single digits days after former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin heartily endorsed him, Shannon knew immediately that his upstart campaign had changed when Palin posted her support on Facebook and Twitter last week.
“All of a sudden people who hadn’t returned my calls started calling back,” Shannon told Breitbart News on Wednesday. “And the excitement from our grassroots supporters just exploded. They were already energized, but when Governor Palin came on board, it just kicked in to overdrive.”
Shannon said, “There are things we can measure, like the many thousands of dollars raised in response to her endorsement,” but there “are so many other things you can feel but not measure.”
“The excitement, the buzz, the chatter are all part of that,” he said. “The sense of momentum it brings. It truly is amazing, and I’m so thankful she agreed to endorse me when I asked. I literally can’t describe the full positive impact it has had on our campaign.”
But polls are beginning to paint a clearer picture of Shannon’s momentum.
Shannon trailed Rep. Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), who is cozy with the Republican establishment in D.C., by 35 points in February. A month later, a Public Opinion Strategy poll of Oklahoma GOP primary voters conducted four days after Palin’s endorsement and released on Tuesday found that Shannon is within single digits (28%-37%).
Former South Carolina Senator and Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint said that Palin’s endorsement has the most impact in GOP primaries, and that seems to be the case in the country’s most conservative state. As Breitbart News noted, the poll found that Palin, who has the highest favorability rating among GOP presidential primary voters, also does extremely well with Oklahoma Republicans with a 75% favorable/14% unfavorable image with Oklahoma GOP primary voters.
Shannon said that said Palin’s endorsement allows voters to trust the more conservative candidate in the race to not sell them out in Washington, D.C., so they are more likely to get on board, donate, and volunteer their time, and enthusiastically recruit their friends after a Palin endorsement.
“When Sarah Palin endorses someone, it removes that doubt for many voters, because her character and credibility and integrity are on the line,” Shannon said. “The fact that she is willing to transfer that credibility to me is something I don’t take lightly at all.”
Shannon said that when Palin supports someone, “it means more than money can buy, because it’s about credibility. Conservatives know who she is, and they know her values and beliefs. More importantly, they know she would not be supporting someone who doesn’t share those values.”
One cannot blame conservatives for being wary of candidates — even those like Shannon who was arguably the most conservative House speaker in the reddest state in the nation — because they have been disappointed by those who campaign to change Washington and then drink the proverbial Kool-aid once they get there and allow Washington to change them.
“That’s a real challenge I think for Republican primary voters. I mean, how many times have they heard a politician say all the right things, then go to D.C. and just fall in with the crowd?” Shannon told Breitbart News. “So there is always that element of doubt in a campaign, where the voters are trying to discern whether someone is truly a conservative, or if they are just saying all the right things.”
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who said he would not be in the Senate were it not for Palin’s endorsement, has been someone who has lived up to his campaign promises and stood unapologetically for conservative principles, and that is partly why the D.C. establishment does not like him while he leads among Tea Partiers and very conservative voters in nearly every 2016 presidential poll.
Though candidates are not guaranteed to fight like Cruz has, Palin’s endorsement gives a signal that her candidate is most likely to do so and not get cozy with the D.C. establishment, which is what conservatives have often accused Lankford, who quickly climbed House Speaker Rep. John Boehner (R-OH)’s (R-OH) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-VA) leadership ladder, of doing. As Palin noted, Shannon does not have the “backing of Beltway insiders.”
Instead, Palin said that Shannon has “the passion and experience We the People need in Washington. As the former Speaker he can stand proud on his record of fighting for conservative legislation that directly benefited the lives of Oklahomans by lowering taxes, cutting government waste, and breaking the cycle of poverty by encouraging entrepreneurial self-reliance as the proven path to prosperity.”
Breitbart News has reported, Shannon has impressed audiences in Oklahoma and across the nation when with his vision and record, but Palin’s endorsement helps shine a spotlight on candidates, especially when she urges Oklahomans and Americans to learn more about Shannon at www.twshannon.com.
Shannon’s name ID has gone from 59% to 74% and his favorables from 30% to 48% while his unfavorables are at 5%. Clay Bennett, the Oklahoma City Thunder owner, has also joined the Shannon campaign as a campaign chairman after Palin’s endorsement.
Palin often backs candidates who are not going to be a part of the permanent political class that is content with just managing America’s decline so long as their cronies get rewarded in D.C.’s “Boomtown,” and Shannon said he told Palin when asking for her endorsement that “we as a party are suffering from a lack of conservative vision. We have plenty of good managers, but few true leaders.”
“Our party needs true conservative leadership that can cast a vision for America’s future, and fight the battles necessary to advance conservative policy,” he said. “I would like to think she sees me as someone who can help fight and win those battles.”
Palin also mentioned that Shannon, in addition to his staunch conservatism, would also bring the morals that are needed in Washington.
“We can also rest assured that T.W. will bring to D.C. the integrity and moral compass he acquired growing up attending Bethlehem Baptist Church and teaching School,” Palin said.
The late great UCLA coach John Wooden always said that failing to prepare is preparing to fail, and Palin’s endorsement often is amplified when campaigns have also had a strong organization in place. That seems to be the case with Shannon’s.
“We had been doing a lot of things here in Oklahoma that a campaign should be doing, like assembling a great team, organizing grassroots supporters, raising money, and advertising,” Shannon said. “All of those things turned out to be very helpful in magnifying Governor Palin’s endorsement, because the voters knew me before they knew Sarah Palin endorsed me.”
As Breitbart News reported, Palin proved how valuable her endorsement is in Nebraska during the 2012 election cycle:
The Republican establishment spent millions backing Jon Bruning, while Washington’s conservative establishment, including Freedom Works, spent millions backing Don Stenberg. But after Palin wrote a 135-word Facebook post to endorse Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE), the then-unknown candidate suddenly had “momentum, buzz, and name identification” and rocketed to the top of the polls en route to wins in the primary and general election.
Oklahoma is a more conservative state than Nebraska, and Shannon is hoping Palin can have a similar impact. He said he feels “wonderful about where we are right now” in the campaign but emphasized that he doesn’t need polls to tell him that “the people of Oklahoma are craving a true conservative leader with the convictions to say no to more debt, no to out-of-control spending, and no to the D.C. establishment.”
That’s something that Shannon knows in his heart, and that is why he has rocketed up the political scene despite having been an underdog many a time.
“T.W. is the underdog in his race, but that’s not a position he’s unfamiliar with,” Palin wrote.
Glen Bolger, of Public Opinion Strategies, wrote that “after starting the campaign as the equivalent of an NCAA Cinderella-wannabe, T.W. Shannon has become the momentum it takes to beat the number one seed, represented by James Lankford.” Palin may be able to boost Shannon even more if she were to campaign with him on the ground in Oklahoma. When she went to campaign in Texas for Cruz, Cruz’s consultant said that Palin was responsible for a 17-point swing in favor of Cruz.
“I’ve certainly never seen an overnight 17-point swing from earned media based on the appearance of a former elected official, a celebrity, or anyone in my experience,” the Cruz strategist said then.
Asked about a potential appearance on the stump with Palin, Shannon not surpassingly said he would welcome the Mama Grizzly to his state.
“I would absolutely love for her to come to Oklahoma,” Shannon told Breitbart News. “It would be an honor to host her here in the reddest state in the nation, and it would be a tremendous boost to the campaign.