Politico described it as Republicans “dodging a Kansas nightmare.” Perhaps there was more attention focused on the Kansas GOP Senate primary because, at least in part, there’s so little actual election news to talk about in the midst of all the rest of the 2020 whirlwind. The race between the more “radical conservative” Kris Kobach and the RNC favorite, Roger Marshall was supposed to be coming down to the wire. No matter which way it wound up going, hard feelings were expected. But in the end, the race played out fairly normally and Marshall wound up taking the victory lap by a reasonably comfortable margin. (Associated Press)
Kansas Republicans on Tuesday nominated Rep. Roger Marshall for the Senate over polarizing conservative Kris Kobach, heeding the party establishment’s advice as it tries to keep a normally safe seat out of play in what could be a difficult year for the GOP.
Marshall prevailed comfortably in a crowded primary field with the backing of major farm, business and anti-abortion groups but without a pre-election endorsement from President Donald Trump sought by Senate Majority Mitch McConnell and others for the two-term congressman for western and central Kansas. Marshall overcame Kobach’s reputation as a conservative firebrand and informal adviser to Trump.
Marshall will face Democratic state Sen. Barbara Bollier, a former lifelong moderate Republican who received national attention at the end of 2018 by switching parties. GOP leaders have worried for months about Bollier’s ability so far to raise more in contributions than the top GOP candidates combined.
Allahpundit gave us the rundown last night. Supporters of Kobach were expected to revolt against Mitch McConnell and the NRSC for “buying the nomination.” Had Kobach prevailed, Marshall’s supporters (and likely the NRSC) would have been screaming bloody murder about putting a safe seat in play and possibly costing them the Senate majority. But with the dust quickly settling, I imagine most of the hard feelings will be put on the shelf for now in the interest of not turning the upper chamber over to Chuck Schumer.
Personally, if we were going strictly on policy questions, I would have preferred Kobach if only for his tough but sensible positions on immigration, controlling spending and other conservative touchstones. But the reality is that we need to keep the seat and Kobach has already shown he’s capable of blowing a totally winnable election. And it’s not as if Marshall is some sort of budding socialist icon. As of this morning, Marshall was up by roughly 14 points with just shy of 40% of the vote, so I don’t think this one is going to be contested.
Just for fun, here’s an interesting wrench to throw into these calculations. What if Kansas had a “jungle primary” like a few other states do? Marshall fended off the rest of the field pretty convincingly, but he’s still well short of a majority. Kobach delivered a fairly solid 25% showing. But Bob Hamilton, David Linstrom, and Steve Roberts racked up more than 27% between them, with Hamilton getting the lion’s share. If Marshall and Kobach had to go into a runoff, how would that have played out? If most of the supporters of the bottom five candidates broke toward Kobach he could still have pulled this thing off.
That’s one hypothetical that will never be known. The real question now is how well the GOP will rally around Marshall. Barbara Bollier earned herself all sorts of love from the national press when she bailed on the GOP after the 2018 elections to plant her flag with the Democrats. But she also must have earned the antipathy of most of the reliably conservative voters in the state for her show of disloyalty. She’s been raising a lot of money off that move, but I rather doubt that it will translate into a big turnout in her favor.
Unlike Politico, I wouldn’t describe Kobach as any sort of “nightmare” for the Kansas GOP, but the voters there may have just locked up that Senate seat for the next six years. It will also take some financial strain off the other races that will likely wind up being much closer. And that’s not a terrible thing at all.