In 2004, Coburn — who had retired from his U.S. House seat four years earlier — crushed two well-financed candidates and one unknown candidate and snagged the GOP nomination for the open Senate seat without a runoff.
In 2010, Mary Fallin defeated Brogdon and two political unknowns to claim the Republican nomination for governor without a runoff.
At the time, Fallin held the Oklahoma City-area congressional seat that Lankford now occupies. She lost Tulsa County and some of the surrounding areas to Brogdon, who had a state Senate district there, but she won Oklahoma County big, along with most of the rest of the state.
A poll released last week by Lankford’s campaign had him way ahead in his own congessional district and winning the two congressional districts that cover central and western Oklahoma. Shannon was ahead in the Tulsa-area congressional district and the eastern Oklahoma district.
That tracked with a News 9/News on 6 poll released a few days earlier that showed Lankford up in three of the five congressional districts. That poll had Lankford up by two points statewide, while Lankford’s poll had him up by 10 points.
After an advertising blitz by Shannon and the dark money group backing him, the Lawton Republican surged ahead in polls. In late April, the group paid for a poll that showed Shannon up 10 points.
“Their whole strategy was: ‘We’ll create the image that we’re surging ahead and everyone will jump on our bandwagon,’” a source close to Lankford said last week.
Whatever the strategy, Shannon has held on to his lead in eastern Oklahoma, including the Tulsa media market, while Lankford is strong in the Oklahoma City area.
Keith Gaddie, a University of Oklahoma political science professor, said, “I think there’s a path for either of them to get there” without a runoff.
“If Lankford can run just ahead in Tulsa, he can get there (without a runoff),” Gaddie said. “If Shannon can run substantially ahead in Tulsa, he can get there without a runoff.”
Ultimately, Gaddie said, the outcome will be determined by targeting the right voters and getting them out to vote.
Safe seat for GOP
There is little question the Republican nominee will go on to win the race in November. No Democrat has won a statewide U.S. Senate race since David Boren’s last re-election in 1990. National political handicappers have all categorized the seat as safe for Republicans.
Coburn announced in January that he would forego the last two years of his term, and the race this year is for those two years only.