Kansas GOP Insider (wannabe): Thoughts on the Kansas GOP Convention

Monday, February 22, 2016

Thoughts on the Kansas GOP Convention

First, many kudos to Sen. Jerry Moran for offering training at the Kansas GOP convention. It has always struck me as amazing stupid and wasteful to gather a bunch of Republicans in one place only to ply them with elevator speeches, chocolate, and the occasional snack or drink.

You’ve got grassroots people anxious and ready to learn. Networking is easier when there is a concrete focus as opposed to random, over-dressed social climbers demanding to know who you are and why you’re there.

So, many thanks to Jerry Moran to providing a focus and purpose to the first day of the event. If I could go one step further, I would really love to see the first day appear more like a conference than a convention. It would be really nice to offer several short classes that people can attend. This serves a few purposes. One, if you’re looking to get more people involved and engaged – and I would argue that should be the intent – the more offerings, the more likely you are to get people in the door. This is also a very good way to collect data. If you get 10 people in a room with a lobbyist explaining the importance of Medicaid reform (or whatever) and you maintain a list of those who attend, you can be pretty well certain that Medicaid is an issue of importance. Or offer a session where a legislator explains his or her ideas for school funding or consolidation, or a session in which Brownback’s budget director really detailed a budget proposal.

If I were in charge of planning, I would do my level best to have at least 10, hour-long sessions with at least 3-5 at a time running concurrently. And yes, I’d cap them at about an hour. That’s my little dream for the convention. There are a ton of things conservatives need to learn – how to engage digitally, how to talk about the issues, how to write a press release. I could go on.

A few years ago, I wrote that the convention often went down like this:

The Republicans have Buffy, Mitzy and their husbands crowded around a punch bowl talking about investment portfolios. (That is a complete exaggeration, but you get the idea.)
It was better this year, and I think that’s in part because there was a focus and a purpose thanks to Moran’s training sessions. Although, can we be a little honest: The final goal of that training session was to get people to actively make phone calls for the Moran campaign. I can live with it, but um…

A few years ago, I also wrote:

“If I could truly change one thing about the Republican Party, it would be the organization's outreach to regular, everyday people, most of whom in Kansas at least, share its values. However, the conventions are used for the Establishment folks to shore up their bases. When Tea Party groups and grassroots people crash the party, there's a lot of eye rolling and sighs from (most) of the politicians themselves and their staffers.”

This, sadly, still remains true. The Establishment – once again—went too far in being Establishment-y. I give you the stump speeches for Marco Rubio at every turn. Rick Santorum advocating for Rubio from the stage at Saturday night’s dinner, a dinner in which donors paid a not-minor fee to attend. I guarantee you some or many of those donors were not and are not Rubio supporters. And then Sen. Roberts took his turn at the microphone and offered a mention of Rubio.

This should go without saying, but it must be said, apparently, repeatedly: The Kansas GOP Convention mainstage is not the place to advocate for your candidate during primary season. In fact, I thought that was a rule – not a suggestion.

This, Establishment, is why the grassroots people don’t trust you. The grassroots campaigners (and grassroots types who were allowed to hold a microphone, a small number, mind you) followed the rules. They did not advocate for their candidates from the mainstage. In typical fashion, however, the Establishment types (and definitely the vast majority of elected officials) seem to believe the rules don’t apply to them.

People Watching

My favorite thing to do at convention – or really any Republican gathering – is people watching. This year’s crowd was more diverse than in year’s past, and I credit the Moran training sessions. If anyone attempts to say that Republicans are the party of old white men, I would beg to differ. Lots and lots of women. Lots and lots of young people. A handful of minorities.

I’m continually amazed at the clear and obvious divide between the Kansas City and Wichita grassroots and activist types. It irks the ICT folks that election year conventions occur in the Jo, and this year, the Wichita folks took their revenge by electing one of their own to replace Todd Tiarht as Kansas National Committeeman. Folks from this end of the state had a dog in the fight – one Chad Bettes. 

(A brief aside, I mean no harm or foul to Chad Bettes or Singularis. I would have voted for Chad had I been able. I'm simply noting that the Wichita folks seem better organized en masse than the folks in the JO.)

Personally, I had some very mixed feelings on this race, which Kahrs won 103-79, I believe. Bettes works for Singularis – Kansas’ answer to Jeff Roe. A savvy reader tels me Bettes no longer works for Singularis, FYI. (I’ll not bore you with the details, and Singularis has a better, kinder reputation than Roe's outfit). And Kahrs is a member of the Kansas House from Wichita. In my heart of hearts, I really wish these committee men and women were elevated from the ranks of volunteers. It’s impractical, I guess, but a girl can dream.

The most stunning people watching always occurs when political staffers demand that volunteers pay deference to their bosses. It’s a disgusting and stunning display. These staffers will tear verbal holes in people working registration tables when they believe their bosses, or their boss’s friends, aren’t sitting at tables close enough to the front at a dinner or breakfast.

This is the part of politics I can’t handle. Too many egos. Far too many people who think they’re chiefs, and far too few people who recognize the great honor they have in their service. The politicians and their staffers should literally be washing the feet of the volunteers and grassroots people at these events. They should be so humbled and honored. Instead, they act like kings waving and lording over their fiefdoms. I don’t know how to fix it, but I wish I could wave a magic wand and do so. Alas, I cannot, but I can offer this reminder to politicians – and especially their staff members – please remember the great honor and fortune you have and recognize that it’s due largely to the committed grassroots volunteers. 

Straw Poll

Someone hosted a presidential straw poll throughout the KS GOP Convention in Overland Park. I was mildly surprised by the results. Judging from the remarks from the podium -- see above -- I assumed everyone in Kansas was all-in for Marco Rubio.

I was wrong-ish. A straw poll, in which people pay to vote, is not even close to scientific. Still, I thought Rubio's misguided supporters were so numerous it was pointless to even cast a straw ballot. 

Had you asked me last week which candidate would win the Kansas Caucus, I would have said Rubio in a landslide. However, the straw poll results suggest otherwise. Cruz won. 

  • Cruz -- 49%
  • Rubio -- 41%
  • Kasich -- 6.5%
  • Trump -- 1.5%
  • Carson -- 1.5%
  • Bush < 1%
Not bad, Kansas. 


  1. Kris Van Meteren bled the KRA and KSGOP dry. Downhill from there. Surprising Singularis has money to keep Chad Bettes on payroll, they've burned so many people. Wichita GOPers don't take NE Kansas seriously, they can't adapt, same people since 1998. Jeff Roe is much more talented than Singularis. Roe earns the contracts, wins elections. Van Meteren is Mike Murphy on Jeb Bush team, gets unbid contracts from state GOP, wastes donor money, we all know this in Topeka and Wichita. Why do you think Kahrs beat Bettes for RNC? Todd Tiahrt beat Kris VanMeteren for RNC? Wichita deserves to beat NE Kansas.

  2. There is some misinformation in this post. I'll try to correct.

    #1 -- Each presidential campaign was offered the opportunity to have a surrogate at the state committee meeting (the one at 2 p.m.) whether that person was local or national. It is my understanding that Trump brought in the woman from the Apprentice, Pompeo spoke for Rubio, and Grosserode spoke for Cruz.

    #2 -- Each presidential campaign is also welcome to bring in the candidates themselves a "famous" surrogate, which is why the presidential year is held in KC as it's the easiest airport. Knowing the difficulty of scheduling, they are allowed to be slotted into any event. Santorum came in the evening due to the Scalia funeral, and was thus given 5 minutes at the dinner. No other presidential campaign chose to have a surrogate available at the dinner. Had the Cruz campaign decided to bring in Glenn Beck, for instance, he would have been afforded the same chance as Rick Santorum. No other campaign brought in a famous surrogate besides Trump, and their surrogate only was available during the day.

    3. The only possible thing that someone could object to was Pat Roberts. But, this is a political convention and he has a right to say what he wants. He spoke about Rubio. If Huelskamp had been speaking maybe he inserts something about Cruz, and if the Rubio folks complained about that they'd be ridiculous too. Even Ben Sasse basically talked for Rubio, if you were listening carefully...and he definitely talked against Trump - should he have left that out so as to avoid any perceptions of bias?

    Let's say the Rubio camp had dropped the ball and Cruz had a major surrogate in, who got to speak at the dinner, and Rubio's team brought no one? Would we hear cries of bias?

    As for the poll - that's actually pretty bad for Cruz. A convention packed full of conservative activists and he barely nabs the establishment guy? Shows you where this race is going.

    1. Should have said "or" a famous surrogate in point #2. Sorry.

  3. Amanda Grosserode is our own Sarah Palin. Over emotional, opportunist. Makes sense Cruz didn't do better.

  4. Van Meteren and his sidekick Suhn have always been about $$$$$$$. That's the only reason he wanted to be RNC 4 years ago when Tiahrt beat him thanks to a split 3rd District who knew Van Meteren to well. Always follow the $$$$ trail to Singularis.

  5. What ICT folks are irked by election year conventions being in JoCo? 2014 was an election year, the convention was in... Wichita.

    1. Presidential year is always in JoCo.