Kansas GOP Insider (wannabe): Who gets the blame?

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Who gets the blame?

The Nov. 4 election may be a garbage storm for Kansas Republicans. 

National Review's Jim Geraghty suggests the outlook for U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts is "darkening." The latest polls suggest Gov. Brownback is inching closer to Paul Davis, though Davis still holds a polling lead within the margin of error.

If Kansas Republicans lose the Governorship, or worse but more likely, a U.S. Senate seat, who gets the blame?

Commence Circular Firing Squad Sequence:

There will certainly be plenty of blame to go around and the autopsy of Kansas general election 2014 will be gory.

I'll share who I believe deserves some heavy helpings of blame, but I am curious friends. Who do you think deserves the lions' share? 

I'm not looking for an ugly argument. That's already happening and is only going to get uglier if things go badly on Nov. 4.

Here's my short list:

1. U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts

He should never have run again. I've said that from the very beginning. One of the reasons is that he's definitely been in Washington too long. But more importantly, he wasn't in a very good position to win.

I know his long-time supporters and his trusted confidantes believe differently. They needed to take off the rose-colored glasses circa 2012. Former Sen. Dick Lugar's 2012 campaign should have sent a shiver down the spine of the Roberts apparatus. Lugar, you'll recall, was the longest-sitting U.S. Senator in history (I think). From Indiana, Lugar's tenure in the Senate began in 1976. (1976!!) He lost re-election in the 2012 Republican primary. The biggest campaign issue? Lugar didn't actually live in Indiana, and his opponent said Lugar had lost touch with his Hoosier State roots.

Sound familiar? His Republican replacement, Richard Mourdock, went on to lose the general election to a Democrat. 

Roberts also deserves some blame for never establishing any sort of ground game. He's had it way too easy in previous elections. Showing up was all it took to win the seat. That simply isn't today's political landscape. Had Roberts really worked at maintaining a real connection to Kansas -- and I don't care about his stupid recliner -- I mean actively, regularly attempting to engage the people he represents, he wouldn't be fighting for his political life today. He'd have supporters on the ground in Kansas, as opposed to flying in some Republican consultants from the East Coast. 

Roberts has been in the U.S. Senate for longer than I have been of voting age. True story: As a very eager college student, I once sat next to him on an airplane. He very obviously didn't want to talk. An engaged Senator would have welcomed the opportunity to spend a few minutes with an informed constituent and voter. Until this summer, that was the ONLY time I have ever seen Pat Roberts outside of when I once visited his office in Washington, D.C. (And note, that plane ride wasn't going to or from Kansas.)

These days a Kansan can't swing an elbow without hitting Kevin Yoder or Jerry Moran. They are simply always, always, around -- either hosting town hall meetings, attending library openings, hosting office hours or whatever. They are available -- in person -- regularly.

I hate to kick a man when he's down, but I just think it's disappointing that Roberts dialed it in for so many years. Just because you can take the easy road doesn't mean you should. Roberts has had ample opportunity to connect with Kansas voters during his 18 years in the U.S. Senate. He's chosen limited contact. For many years, it was good enough, but had he done the hard work years ago, he wouldn't have to work so hard today.

2. Party Insiders/Roberts political advisors -- (i.e., the grassroots people who encouraged Roberts to seek re-election in 2014. I am assuming Roberts does in fact have some trusted advisors in Kansas. Those are the folks of which I speak here.) 

I'm told Republican Party insiders (Establishment) and leaders encouraged Roberts to run a bazillionth time in order to avoid a nasty primary, as it was rumored an open seat would have drawn several candidates, including Tim Huelskamp, Kris Kobach, Kevin Yoder and Todd Tiahrt. Everyone wanted to avoid the possibility of losing those office holders' seats to a Democrat and no one wanted a filthy primary that may have tarnished everyone involved.

Well, guess what? We got a filthy primary anyway, and now we're looking perilously close to losing the U.S. Senate. I would much rather have a fair, honest fight with the very best and brightest candidates battling it out for coveted offices. I would hate the lose any of those office holders' seats, but you know what will be worse? Losing the U.S. Senate with two years left of the Obama Presidency.

Any one of those candidates listed above would be running a better, more engaged, intense race against independent liberal Greg Orman. And a fresher face eliminates one-half of Orman's arguments. 

Please don't misunderstand me. I'm not bashing Roberts exactly, and if I haven't said it already, Roberts deserves our vote in the Nov. 4 election. I'm very disturbed by the political movers and shakers who think they can control the Republican electorate. Their hubris is damaging to the Republican Party and may be damaging to the entire country come January 2015.

3. Milton Wolf

I was a mild Wolf supporter in August, but my tank of patience is on empty. It's well past time that he get over his damaged feelings and endorse Pat Roberts. 

It was an ugly primary campaign, but surely, that was expected, right? Wolf didn't throw his hat into the ring to become Secretary of the local Rotary Club. He was running for membership in a very elite organization -- one of the most powerful groups on the face of the planet. 

Even if Roberts had played 100 percent positive -- only running ads about why he's great, not doing any opposition research -- Wolf should have known and expected that someone, a PAC or a Roberts-supporting individual or what-have-you, would run negative ads on the Senator's behalf.  To think otherwise, is well, stupid.

Wolf should have expected it. Sure, be mad about it. But don't take your ball and go home. This is the big leagues. If Wolf wants the slightest hint of a political future, he needs to host a press conference, donate a few thousand and endorse Roberts. 

And while we're on the topic, has Wolf endorsed Brownback yet? A week ago, the Washington Examiner reported that the endorsement was forthcoming. I haven't seen it yet. Memo to Wolf: If you wait until Nov. 5, it's too late.

4. Ardent Wolf and Roberts Supporters 

You know who you are, and you know how you've behaved. Please, please grow up and act like adults. Stop throwing flames in the social media sandbox. 

Rabid Roberts supporters were really gross during the primary election. (I won't tell you what one of them said to me in person. Seriously, some old man I didn't even know personally attacked me at a party event, all for the simple crime of admitting to him that I would be voting for Wolf. Earth to you people: Attacking the other people who are generally on your side doesn't exactly harbor warm, fuzzy feelings. Have a debate, sure. But if your debate skills range from calling someone an "idiot" to calling someone a "moron," you're doing it wrong.) 

Meanwhile, Wolf supporters need to get on the Roberts train, ASAP. It's no secret that I personally want to slap the taste out of the mouths of those so-called "Tea Party" negotiators. I still feel slightly, OK, crazy enraged, when I think about last week's story in The Hill. Just stop it already, and either cast your vote for and vocally offer support to Roberts, or please, please do the world a favor and stop talking until Nov. 5. You're not helping. You're hurting the country's chances of having a Republican majority in the Senate.

 5. Sam Brownback

Dear, dear Governor: Please, please start listening to members of your own party. I'm not saying you should stop listening to your advisers, but you can overrule them, correct?

The bizarre thing about Brownback is he has governed far more from the center than necessary. It's quite baffling, honestly. He's pandered to special interests -- just not conservative special interests. (see, his grand American Indian apology tour. What was that? I'm still scratching my head.) 

In his quest for I guess, mediocrity, he's done a fine job of alienating conservatives. The moderates liberals are never, ever going to join Brownback's cause. Ever. So Brownback should be spending his time in office rallying conservatives and moving the state to the right. That's not what he's done, despite the media storyline.

If I think too long about it, I can still get fired up about that sales tax increase. 

You would be hard-pressed to find many conservatives just chomping at the bit to cast a ballot for Brownback this year. I'm not worried that they'll vote for Davis, but everyone should worry about the conservatives who just won't vote in the Governor's race. I've talked to them on doorsteps, and so have state House and Senate candidates. And I know for a fact, some of those very candidates have tried repeatedly to tell the Governor and his people that. It doesn't appear that Brownback is listening. Will conservative voting be depressed enough to drag down races lower on the ticket? 

The most rabid (in an awesome way) conservative officeholder (maybe second to Huelskamp) is Kris Kobach. He's going to get more votes than Brownback. 

Just let that sink in.

5. Jerry Moran

Moran is the head of the NRSC, and if Republicans lose the U.S. Senate in this election, he should be immediately removed from that duty. Sorry. 

I like Moran, but the NRSC has one job. If they fail to win the Senate because Moran's home state sends a liberal to Washington, Moran should be canned from that role.

Who am I missing? Are there others who deserve some blame? Shoot me an email or comment anonymously. Let's keep the discussion halfway civil and clean.


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