Nancy Boyda, a Democrat who ran for Congress in this district last year, owed her upset victory partly to the popularity of the Democratic woman at the top of the ticket: Kathleen Sebelius, who won the governor’s seat. Now, with a tough re-election race at hand in 2008, Ms. Boyda faces the prospect that her electoral fate could be tied to another woman: Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Ms. Boyda, 52, is a former Republican who represents the state capital, Topeka, and a surrounding expanse of prairie and pasture interspersed with conservative small towns, military posts and this college community, home to Kansas State University. It was by appealing to conservative Democrats and moderate Republicans that she was able to defeat Jim Ryun, a five-term congressman, by 51 percent to 47 percent last year.
This time both Mr. Ryun and another Republican, Lynn Jenkins, the state treasurer, are lined up to run against her. And while vulnerable Democrats like her are not likely to have an easy time even if Senator Barack Obama, John Edwards or any of the other Democratic presidential candidates wins the nomination, Republicans in Kansas say Mrs. Clinton’s presence on the ticket would unite their party in opposition to her and give dispirited conservatives a reason to get excited about the race.
Ms. Boyda is one of a group of House Democrats — including fellow freshmen like Zack Space of Ohio, Nick Lampson of Texas, Heath Shuler of North Carolina and Brad Ellsworth of Indiana — who will be battling for re-election in Republican territory.
In the Senate, Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana faces a similar challenge, and in an indication of what she and other Democrats, including Senators Max Baucus of Montana and Mark Pryor of Arkansas, could face, Republicans unveiled a Web commercial on Monday linking Ms. Landrieu directly to Mrs. Clinton. In the advertisement, Mrs. Clinton’s face morphs into Ms. Landrieu’s, and they are described as “two peas in a pod.”
That’s gotta hurt. The scandal-plagued 1990s plus Clinton’s own high negatives translate into a difficult candidate for a party to have atop its ticket. Sen. Clinton’s recent turn to the negative may help her get past Obama and win the battle at hand, but at the cost of jeopardizing the Democrat war. Add to that that the Republicans won’t have the Bush name to drag them down next year and you have…well, possibilities.
The mere mention of Mrs. Clinton’s name as a potential president dew a strong reaction from Tom Doperalski, an official in rural Pottawatomie County who had just finished meeting with Ms. Boyda about how to contend with growth issues arising out of the increase of troops stationed at nearby Fort Riley.
“The people I talk to, they just cannot imagine a worse scenario,” said Mr. Doperalski, a Republican who heads the county commission. “They just don’t think she can be trusted.”
Want a dark cloud to lurk behind all this silver? Well, Clinton’s negatives probably can’t get much higher than they already are, so negative ads probably won’t do much against her. And according to the polls, she’s still competitive against all of the possible GOP candidates.