Yet for the past few weeks, Democrats have come to Kobach’s rescue, spending at least $4 million to help the unapologetic Trump ally win the Republican nomination for an open U.S. Senate seat in Kansas. The primary is August 4, and a Democratic-aligned super PAC formed in recent weeks has poured millions into TV ads that bash Kobach’s opponent, Representative Roger Marshall, the Republican backed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other state and national GOP power brokers. The ads attack Marshall from the right, lumping him in with “Mitt Romney Republicans and Never Trumpers” who think Kobach is “too conservative.” The committee, called the Sunflower State PAC, is using an advertising firm that created commercials for Bernie Sanders’s 2016 presidential campaign and for a super PAC backing Joe Biden this year.
It appears to be a simple, if clandestine, case of primary meddling, a tactic that has become popular among both parties in recent years: Democrats see Kobach as the weaker, more polarizing GOP candidate and are trying to boost him now so they can pummel him in the fall. But the strategy is unnerving the party’s staunchest immigrant advocates, who see Kobach as a uniquely dangerous figure and who worry the move could backfire and end up giving him a national platform in the Senate and a potential launching pad to the presidency.
“You’re playing with fire here,” Frank Sharry, the executive director of America’s Voice and a longtime advocate for immigration reform, told me in an interview. “He’s not a stooge to be lifted in the hopes of winning a Senate seat,” he said of Kobach. “He is the devil incarnate, and we’ve got to put a stake through a heart at every opportunity. So we’re not going to be contributing to this group or patting them on the back.”