Commentators are trying to figure out the cause and significance of this week’s special election in KS-04 (Wichita):
Democrats, of course, are proclaiming the closer-than-expected race as a referendum on President Trump and evidence that a liberal wave is building in advance of the 2018 midterms. Republicans are pointing out that this is just one election and there were local factors at play. It’s true that Republican Gov. Sam Brownback is super unpopular, and it’s difficult to know how much Brownback hurt Estes compared to Trump and his poor approval ratings. (National Democrats are hoping Trump played a bigger role because Brownback would only have an impact in Kansas, while Trump could damage Republicans nationwide.)
My own opinion is that it’s too early for this to have been a referendum on Trump. This was an indictment of Brownback, who is widely hated in Kansas. Speaking as someone who lives conveniently near Kansas and knows many people who live there, I can testify to how strong this is. I agree with the Republican Party on this part of the assessment.
Thompson didn’t run against Trump in his ads, as far as I know. He ran against Brownback and Estes was Brownback’s State Treasurer. He owned all of the negative flack that came with it.
Thompson, like many Democrats who run in “red” states and districts, downplayed his party affiliation and played up his strong stance on 2nd Amendment issues and illegal immigration. Hey, I just noticed something. Why is it “downplayed” and not “up-played” as the opposite of that? Weird. Downplayed and played-up. I guess that is opposite.
That aside, it is surprising that a solidly pro-abortion candidate did that well in Wichita. If there’s one factor that sunk Thompson’s chances besides the (D) after his name, it was probably the devastating pro-life attacks that did it. That certainly works in Kansas, but not everywhere.
So is 2018 to be a Democratic Wave like 2006? It’s too soon to tell, but I would take this special election as proof that Democrats are eager to send a message and vote in the next midterm. Their turnout should be high, but they’ll need higher black and youth turnout than they usually get. Also, they need Republicans to stay home and for enough independents to break their way.
In 2006, the Iraq War was sufficient for providing these ingredients. How vulnerable the House GOP is going to be in 2018 is entirely dependent on whether or not they plan to have any more AHCA fuckups and how well the economy is doing.
There’s no question in my mind that Democrats will show up to vote. #TheResistance is organizing them well. The GOP just needs to give its voters and right-leaning incentives a reason to turn out and pull the lever.
So far? They’re not doing well. The GOP Congress had better wake up and start passing some laws while it still can.