Kansas GOP Insider (wannabe): March 2018

Friday, March 23, 2018

Guy Who May Not Actually Know Any Republicans Attempts to Handicap GOP Race

Serious question: Have Steve Kraske or his affable side kick from Lawrence ever met an actual Republican voter?

My guess, based on a recent column, is no. I want to preface everything I'm about to say with this: Contrary to what you may have heard, I don't have a horse in the Kansas Governor's race. I really like the GOP candidates, and I have grave concerns about each of them. (And if you're all lucky, maybe I'll regale you with Deep Thoughts on the topic in the future.)

In the meantime, Kraske's most recent effort at handicapping the race is just laughable.  Kraske theorizes, accurately, that Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach was likely the man to beat in the GOP primary for Governor. 

"Suddenly, though, January morphed into March, and Kobach is looking nothing like King Kong," Kraske breathlessly tells readers.

Everyone with two functioning brain cells knew the race would tighten when Colyer became Governor, based on the advantages of incumbency. When some of the candidates dropped out of the crowded race, the field was bound to narrow further. That one is based on math.

Kraske quotes an old poll conducted on Feb. 13 and 14 that found Gov. Jeff Colyer with a lead within the margin of error of 23 percent to Kobach's 21 percent. The poll included other candidates like Wink Hartman and Mark Hutton who have dropped out. And it was taken at the height of positive coverage for Colyer. He had just taken the Governor's office less than two weeks earlier. Since then, Hartman, who polled at 5 percent, has become Kobach's running mate. Does Kobach pick up that 5 percent? It's tough to say, but my gut says probably. A more recent poll suggests that too. 

Kraske's other exhibits for his thesis is Kobach's last campaign finance report. Kobach was lighter on funds than other candidates. Here again, that's yesterday's news. Kobach just named one of the state's wealthiest people as his running mate. Hartman was willing to ply his own campaign with $1.6 million of his own money. Will he drop a cool million into a joint ticket? Who knows? It's a plot twist that shouldn't be overlooked by Kraske and his faithful professorial sidekick. The money game is different today than it was back in January.

Kraske's final point is that Kobach's recent trial versus the ACLU went poorly, and here is where it starts to become obvious that the columnist is just penciling a tome of wistful thinking: No one except a handful of journalists and the "resistance" paid any attention to that trial. (Full disclosure: One of the attorneys involved once represented me in a legal matter.) Most members of the "resistance" aren't voting in the Republican primary.

Republican voters weren't following along that trial trying to choose a gubernatorial horse in the race. Republican voters aren't breathlessly awaiting a verdict. They paid about as much attention to the media coverage of that trial as I pay to American Idol. (Is that show still even a thing?)

No matter how that particular event shakes out, it will be a tree falling in the forest with no one around to hear it save for Bryan Lowry. 

Why do I have this picture of a young Lowry? I don't know. Someone sent it to me a few years ago. 

The idea that a stampede of Republican voters is going to base their votes on it is ridiculous. It is, however, likely to be mentioned in every story about Kobach until the end of time. 

The Star columnist glosses over a recent poll, released by the Kobach campaign so grain of salt etc., that found 31 percent of likely voters choose Kobach to 18 percent for Colyer. Its margin of error is 4.4 percent. 

That poll was conducted between March 15 and 17. It's a lot fresher than the poll on which Kraske hangs his hat. It suggests that 36 percent of those polled are still undecided in the race. Those are the likely targets of Kraske's pitch, but most Republican voters--especially those who vote in midterm primary elections--don't pick up the Star all that often. 

Bottom line: It's a little early to make sweeping generalizations about the state of the GOP race, especially if you're someone who doesn't know any actual Republican voters.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

In Which Gidget Plays Fun Killer

Lawmakers are invited to Skinny's tonight for an annual drunken karaoke event. 

Yes, it's the middle of the session. Yes, half of them have families at home who they've barely seen, and no, they still haven't decided what they'll do about school finance.

But they're headed to Skinny's in Topeka tonight to drink and make merry with lobbyists who organize the debauchery. The event begins at 9 p.m., but the real fun starts much later when liquid courage draws them to the microphone.

It sounds fun, but the optics are awful.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Swamp Meddling in KS with a Side of 2nd District Polling

The swamp is stepping into the Kansas Democratic race for Governor. Normally, I oppose Washington, D.C. jumping into the Sunflower State and pretending to understand anything about our Home on the Range. But if the swamp people want to mess up the Democratic primary, my feelings won't be hurt at all. 

The former western regional candidate services director at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Jordy Ziegler, just announced she'll join Sen. Laura Kelly's campaign as campaign manager.

It sure looks like the Swamp is choosing the Kansas Democratic nominee before Democratic voters have a chance to cast a ballot. That should make other Democratic candidates fiery mad. The only one who seems to be firing back so far is Rep. Jim Ward. He's launched an all out assault on Kelly's voting record on gun control.  

Dems probably shouldn't be all that surprised by the national party's actions. See Chad Taylor and how the Dems disenfranchised all of their own voters in favor of an "independent" candidate in the race against Sen. Pat Roberts circa 2014. 

Swamp Dems should be careful. Their more recent efforts at selecting a party nominee over the objections of the actual voters yielded the Hillary campaign, and we all know how that ended: With liberals in genital hats crying and screaming at the sky. Great for comedic relief, not so great if winning is the goal.

Speaking of swamp meddling, one Republican candidate for Kansas 2nd Congressional seat visited Washington, D.C. last week. I don't have any insider information on why that might be, but if I had to guess, I'd say the Swamp is likely very interested in the Kansas Republican primary in the second district. 

Washington pundits are calling the race to replace Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins one to watch, and the Democrats have a strong-ish candidate amassing a war chest. That would be failed gubernatorial candidate Paul Davis. He lost to now-Ambassador Sam Brownback, but he managed a moral victory, narrowly winning the second. At last report, he'd raised $700,000 compared to a bevy or Republicans who collectively earned less. And that's money those candidates will need to fend off one another long before the general election. It's a problem.

So... perhaps the NRCC is auditioning candidates, hoping to back a horse in that race. For what it's worth, the NRCC is gross. They should stick to backing incumbents and let Kansans choose its own Republican horse. I think that's generally their task, but Democrats need to pick up a mere 24 seats to turn over control of the House to Nancy Pelosi, and with so many House Republicans choosing not to seek re-election, the GOP will be playing a lot of defense in 2018. (Also, every once in awhile, the general electorate really mucks things up. See the Roy Moore campaign. I don't know how regular voters goofed so epically on that one, but they boffed it badly, and now there's a Democrat representing ALABAMA in the U.S. Senate. Alabama!!!)

So... one Republican candidate was in D.C. last week.  Make of that what you will. For all I know, the candidate was visiting an old friend or polishing shoes at Metro Station to raise campaign bucks. That may be more lucrative than fundraising in Kansas right now since the gubernatorial race seems to be sucking up all the oxygen right now.

But while we're on the topic, I should mention that I've heard rumor of poll results in the 2nd. According to my super insider-y and somewhat gossip-y sources, a poll of 529 registered Republicans in the district gives a lead to Tyler Tannahill.

Tannahill is a political newcomer, which in all honestly, makes me incredibly nervous. (See Donald Trump's ridiculous comments on gun control. People who've spent time in the political trenches don't say stupid stuff like, "take the guns first and worry about due process later." They don't say those things, because they've carefully considered the issues and policies. Trump uses instinct, which might work great in the animal kingdom, but here in the human arena, we've been gifted with the ability to use logic and reason coupled with careful thought and study.)

Despite being a newcomer, Tannahill made a splash early by holding a campaign raffle for an AR-15. He launched the raffle a day before the shooting at a Florida school, and when the liberals discovered the raffle for an "assault" rifle, they went remarkably rabid, upping Tannahill's name recognition in an instant. Impressively, he didn't back down. So that's good. Perhaps he relies on reason and careful thought rather than "instinct."

The national media attention may be responsible for the mid-February poll indicating Tannahill would receive 14 percent of the vote in a primary election were it held that day.

State Sen. Caryn Tyson garnered 7.8 percent, followed by Sen. Steve Fitzgerald at 6.2 percent, and Rep. Kevin Jones at 3.2 percent. The remaining candidates didn't break 1 percent. 

The real takeaway from the poll is that 67 percent of voters in the 2nd remain undecided. Something needs to happen there to narrow the field, but so far, I don't see much reason for anyone to budge. No one has raised obscene amounts of money, and the polls aren't showing a big enough spread to encourage anyone to bow out. The very good news is voters in the 2nd have a lot of really good choices. Hopefully, they'll choose wisely.