Kansas Senate seat in play as Republicans look to re-nominate perpetual loser Kris Kobach
After a swing of southeastern states (Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina), Civiqs now takes a look at the Senate race in Kansas. And believe it or not, while not a top-tier opportunity, the seat is in play—in large part because Republicans look intent on nominating the same white supremacist extremist that cost them the governor’s race in 2018.
Weak and scared president Donald Trump won Kansas by around 20 points in 2016, but that lead is down to 12. That kind of erosion in his support matters because the weaker he runs, the fewer crossover votes Democrats need to split the vote. Trump is going to win Kansas. There’s no drama there. It’s about getting Republicans to either leave the rest of the ballot blank, or to crossover and vote for the Democratic candidate, Barbara Bollier.
So first, the Republican primary:
There is certainly time before the August 4 primary for things to move around or change, but Kobach has the credibility and support of the crazy deplorable base, and that goes far in a traditional red state with a split field.
Now for the general election head-to-heads:
|BARBARA BOLLIER (D)||42|
|KRIS KOBACH (R)||41|
|BARBARA BOLLIER (D)||41|
|ROGER MARSHALL (R)||42|
|BARBARA BOLLIER (D)||41|
|BOB HAMILTON (R)||40|
Not a big difference between the different matchups, but Bollier certainly runs slightly better against Kobach then the rest of the field. Problem is, it’s a red state, and as you might guess, the vast majority of the undecideds and “someone else” people are Republican. 70% of them, in fact, plan to vote for Donald Trump.
So at first blush, it looks just like South Carolina’s 42-42 result. But while we expect undecided Republicans to come home to Lindsey Graham in that state, Kansas is a bit of a different story.
For one, you have the 2018 gubernatorial victory, against that very same odious Kobach. Want to know what Kobach got that year? 43%. So he’s currently getting the support of pretty much the same people who voted for him in 2018, while the rest of the state either wants someone else, or is looking around nervously wondering if they’re going to be forced into making the same choice again.
Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly got 48% of the vote, with independent Greg Orman getting 6.5%. Kansas doesn’t have a Georgia-style 50% rule, so whatever independents and libertarian candidates run can offer a safety release valve for Republicans to pick someone else, without having to debase themselves by voting for a Democrat.
Kansas Republicans have been locked in a vicious civil war for years, between the Kobach deplorables and a moderate wing. In fact, Bollier is a former member of that moderate wing of the Kansas Republican Party. In recent years, the deplorable wing has gotten the upper hand, and that has led to increasing defections (particularly in, you guessed it, the suburbs) to Democrats. That’s how Democratic Rep. Sharice Davids picked up a suburban Kansas City seat by 10 points, when the incumbent Republican had won that same seat by 11 points just two years prior.
So while South Carolina is highly polarized among racial lines, the battle lines in Kansas are ideological, between moderates and conservatives, and a shift is underway. In 2018, in the entire state, the House popular vote was 54-44. In 2016? 59-27. In 2014, it was 63-36. You get the point. There are some dramatic shifts underway, and Bollier, by virtue of her own ideological transition, has a great story to sell those Republicans who couldn’t pull the trigger for Kobach in 2018.
Also note, that in 2018, in Kansas:
House popular vote: 54 R - 44 D
Governor’s race: 48 D - 43 R
This is important, because it means that Kansas voters are willing and able to split their tickets.
One last reason why Kansas might well surprise—the state is an anomaly, in a world where education is a huge predictor of partisan performance.
18 of the 20 states with the most college graduates are Democratic at the presidential level. (Kansas and Utah are the exceptions.)
28 of the 30 states with the least college graduates are Republican at the presidential level. (New Mexico and Nevada are the exceptions.)
Given the rapid shifts in partisan preference in highly educated suburbs all across the country, Kansas may very well continue to shift in the Democrats’ direction. The fact that Trump’s lead is down to 12, after he won the state by 20 in 2016, is part of that dynamic. And given Trump’s declining fortunes in all public polling (including Civiqs’ daily tracker), that lead may continue to erode through another four months of mass death and economic devastation. The national protests over the mass murder of Black Americans by police may yet scramble the equation again, but as things stand, there is more room for Trump to fall than rise. And again, Democratic nominee Joe Biden doesn’t need to win the state for us to win the Senate seat.
Yes yes, this is all more complicated than merely thinking that South Carolina’s 42-42 is just like Kansas’ 42-41. But it is. South Carolina isn’t winnable absent some dramatic shifts in the dynamics of the national political climate. Kansas very much is winnable, if Democrats can recreate the dynamics that led to their strong gubernatorial victory in 2018. As as this poll shows, such a result is well within the realm of possibility.
Recent Civiqs polling:
South Carolina (May 27)
Georgia (May 19)
North Carolina (May 5)