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Tea Party infighting in Oklahoma

A Republican Senate primary has yielded yet another intraparty feud pitting grassroots conservatives against national political strategists.

But in Oklahoma, where Republicans head to the polls Tuesday to nominate a successor to conservative Sen. Tom Coburn, local Tea Party groups aren't angry at the National Republican Senatorial Committee -- or any GOP official in Washington. Rather, they're furious with national Tea Party figures and organizations, such as Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and the Senate Conservatives Fund, based in Washington, for meddling in their primary and anointing the so-called “real conservative.”

The national Tea Party groups are backing state Rep. T.W. Shannon, who recently stepped down as speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives to focus on his Senate campaign. Cruz even cut a pro-Shannon television ad for the Senate Conservatives Fund.

The Oklahoma Tea Party groups are ticked -- both because they appear to prefer Shannon's main competitor, Rep. James Lankford, and because their national counterparts didn't consult them before choosing sides. Sooner State voters are somewhat unique in their suspicion of out-of-state political forces. Still, the clash is notable considering that Washington's Tea Party establishment has complained for years that the GOP should stay out of primaries and allow the grassroots to choose its standard-bearer.

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