In Kansas’ Republican senatorial primary, voters will choose between former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and Rep. Roger Marshall — who some GOP strategists believe is by far the more electable of the two. And according to Politico’s James Arkin, one of the prominent Republicans who is sounding the alarm is Kevin McLaughlin, executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
Although Kobach and Marshall are both hard-right politically, Kobach is more extreme — so extreme that even in deep red Kansas, he lost a gubernatorial race to a centrist Democrat in the 2018 midterms. That Democrat, Laura Kelly, is now governor of Kansas, where Kobach was a leading promoter of the racist “birther” conspiracy theory during the 2010s.
Arkin reports that on Thursday, July 30, McLaughlin appeared in a private Zoom call and warned that if Kobach receives the GOP nomination and loses in the general election, it could cost Republicans their U.S. Senate majority. McLaughlin, according to Politico sources, warned, “The Senate majority runs through Kansas.”
Earlier this year, Republican strategists were hoping that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would run for that U.S. Senate seat presently held by Republican Sen. Pat Roberts, who is retiring. But Pompeo wasn’t interested, and Kobach’s Republican critics have been rallying around Marshall.
Democrats, according to Arkin, have been “meddling” in the primary and hoping that Kobach wins — as they believe he would be easier to defeat than Marshall, who, Arkin notes, was “leading Kobach comfortably in internal polling earlier in the summer. But after nearly $5 million was dumped in by a super PAC with ties to Democrats to elevate Kobach and bash Marshall’s image, Republicans acknowledge that the primary is a dead heat.”
“A Kobach victory would upend the battle for control of the Senate,” Arkin explains. “Democrats haven’t won a Senate race in Kansas since the 1930s, but with Kobach on the ballot, Republicans would be forced to sink millions into trying to defend a seat party officials believe should have stayed safely in their column. Republicans are already stretched thin on a Senate map that features more than a half dozen GOP incumbents in competitive races.”
The winner of the GOP senatorial primary in Kansas will likely be up against Democrat Barbara Bollier, a Kansas state senator who was a Republican in the past.
Arkin notes that another well-known Republican who is sounding the alarm and hopes Marshall receives the nomination is former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. In a pro-Marshall robocall, Gingrich described him as a “committed pro-life conservative” and a “great supporter of President Trump.” And in an appearance on a Kansas radio station, Gingrich warned, “Every poll I’ve seen says that Kobach can't win a general election. (Kobach) did the worst statewide numbers when he ran for governor of any Republican in the last more than a decade. He’s weaker now.”