Democrats got some very good news Tuesday night even as Republican Ron Estes beat James Thompson in the special congressional election in Kansas.
The 4th District stayed Republican red, but not by nearly as much as in recent elections. Estes won by 7 percentage points; GOP predecessor Mike Pompeo won by 31 percentage points in 2016.
That should give Democrats incredible encouragement that in 2018 they could oust Kevin Yoder in the far more progressive 3rd District, made up mostly of Johnson and Wyandotte counties.
If Democrats put forward anyone decent, they could seize the governor’s office as well next year. Thompson made his race very close by beating up on Gov. Sam Brownback (who can’t run again because of term limits) and his absolutely reckless policies, tying them to Estes. The Democratic candidate for governor in 2018 will do the same.
And in the next 18 months or so, all of the grassroots anti-GOP, anti-Trump fervor could increase even more, giving Democrats clearer shots at winning more federal and state races in Kansas.
But there was a bit of encouraging news for Republicans Tuesday night in Kansas, too.
Donald Trump’s problems since becoming president hurt Estes with GOP voters, just not nearly enough.
The GOP decision to parachute in at the last minute — with robocalls from Trump and Vice President Mike Pence and a visit from Sen. Ted Cruz — rallied voters and raised the importance of the election for Republicans.
The decision by national Democratic groups to stay out of the election hurt Thompson’s ability to raise his profile, though it did allow him to run more as a no-strings-attached candidate.
Bottom line: Democrats missed a chance to win the first congressional office up for dibs since Trump became president.
But they did it in a way that promotes the story line that the Republican brand is in big trouble in Kansas.
On to 2018.