Can Republicans really blow a Senate race in Kansas, a state that hasn’t sent a Democrat to the upper chamber since 1932?
Top Republicans and Democrats in Washington say the answer is yes. And their actions reveal they really mean it.
A shadowy Democratic super PAC has spent $5.3 million attacking GOP candidate Roger Marshall in order to boost Republican Kris Kobach ahead of Tuesday’s Kansas Senate primary. A super PAC aligned with Mitch McConnell has spent at least $1.2 million doing the opposite.
Democrats want Kobach to be the nominee because he lost the governor’s race to Democrat Laura Kelly 48 percent to 43 percent in 2018, when other Republicans still coasted to victory statewide (the state’s Republican attorney general, for example, won re-election by 19 points on the same ballot).
Although Donald Trump carried Kansas 56 percent to 36 percent against Hillary Clinton in 2016, his margin of victory could be much smaller in 2020. Internal Senate GOP polling “showed Mr. Trump leading only narrowly in the state and found that nearly 30 percent of Republican primary voters indicated they would support the Democrat in the Senate race, state Senator Barbara Bollier, if Mr. Kobach were the nominee, according to two Republicans familiar with the data,” the New York Times reported last week.
Some Senate Republicans have urged President Trump to endorse Marshall, but Trump let it be known last week that he was going to sit it out.
Trump hasn’t offered an official reason for declining to endorse a candidate in Kansas, but he announced his decision, according to multiple reports, after Texas senator Ted Cruz reminded Trump in a conversation aboard Air Force One last Wednesday that Marshall endorsed John Kasich in the 2016 GOP presidential primary.