Republicans in Washington, D.C. are preparing plans to torpedo the 2020 campaign of a former top Trump administration official, The Kansas City Star reported Friday.
“National Republicans are prepared to intervene in the Kansas Senate primary to ensure that conservative firebrand Kris Kobach does not win the party’s nomination should he run,” the newspaper reported, based on multiple sources.
Kobach ran Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, widely known as his voter fraud commission, which was disbanded after failing to document widespread voter fraud.
Kobach has had a colorful history in Republican politics. He lost a bid for Congress in 2004, but was elected chair of the Kansas Republican Party in 2007 and then elected Secretary of State in 2010 and 2014.
But he lost his 2018 bid for governor in a red state, causing Republicans to worry he could lose statewide again in 2020.
“Kobach said last week that he is still ‘actively considering’ a bid for the U.S. Senate next year in Kansas. The seat will come open with the retirement of Republican Sen. Pat Roberts, 83, who announced in January that he would not run for re-election,” The Star reported. “Any anti-Kobach efforts by groups such as the National Republican Senatorial Committee or the Senate Leadership Fund likely would take the form of undermining Kobach without actively supporting any of the other GOP candidates running against him.”
The senior editor of The Cook Political Report, Jennifer Duffy, expected Republican organizations will “do some actual spending if it comes to that.”
“They’ll talk about electability, they’ll talk about some of his controversies. I don’t think they want a slash-and-burn effort, but their goal will be to disqualify without at this point getting behind a candidate,” Duffy predicted.
Kobach’s former campaign manager denounced opposition from national Republicans.
“It wouldn’t be the first time the D.C. establishment came after a true conservative here in Kansas. Kris stands with President Trump — he’s tough on illegal immigration — and these sorts of attacks show the establishment is soft on that issue,” State Rep. J.R. Claeys argued.
Kansas is not the only red state where national Republicans may spend money against a Republican candidate.
“National Republicans getting involved in an open primary race would be unusual, but not unprecedented. The National Republican Senatorial Committee — the GOP Senate’s campaign arm — has indicated it would do the same thing in Alabama if Roy Moore runs again,” The Star noted.
Republicans’ worries about Kobach go back much further than with Moore, who was a GOP star until allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced during his Senate bid.
“Some Republicans in Washington and Topeka are fed up with Kobach after a long series of political stumbles, dating back to his failed run against Democratic Rep. Dennis Moore in 2004 and his tumultuous tenure as chairman of the Kansas Republican Party later that decade during which the party struggled with financial problems,” the newspaper noted. “His 2018 loss in the race for governor was the final straw. Kobach, who was then serving as Kansas’ Secretary of State, squeaked out a win over Colyer, the sitting governor, in the Republican primary after by a last-minute endorsement by President Donald Trump. But he lost the general election to Laura Kelly, a Democrat.”