UPDATED 9:50 p.m. Monday: Donald Trump’s blundering presidency plus Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s pathetic approval ratings are godsends for Democrat James Thompson.
Thompson is desperately trying to tap into the widespread disgust with both men’s policies. He hopes that voters in a special election Tuesday will make him the next congressman from Kansas’ 4th District, which includes Wichita.
The congressional contest is garnering deserved national attention because it’s the first one since Trump shocked the world to become president last November.
And Bryan Lowry of The Kansas City Star reported late Monday that an internal poll circulating among Republicans late in the race showed GOP candidate Ron Estes up by only a single point over Thompson.
On Monday, the GOP looked pretty desperate — or cunning, depending on your point of view.
Trump recorded a last-minute, typically silly-sounding Trumpesque robocall for Estes, the GOP state treasurer.
— Alexis Levinson (@alexis_levinson) April 10, 2017
And Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz showed up for a quickie rally to try to rally the Republican troops.
Quick reality check: This is still a long-shot campaign.
Trump won the district by almost 30 percentage points. Republican Mike Pompeo held the safe GOP seat until becoming Trump’s CIA director early this year. Estes won his 2014 race with 67.5 percent of the vote. Plus, Libertarian candidate Chris Rockhold could bleed some of the anti-GOP votes from Thompson.
And yet … Democrats contend they have a respectable chance to beat Estes for a couple of reasons.
— The first is the backlash nationally among large groups of Americans against Trump and his policies (whatever they are at the moment), plus Kansans’ distaste for Brownback.
Democratic leaders in Kansas are hoping their voters now realize they have to show up at the polls and oppose people who would support Trump in Congress.
— Secondly, Republicans appear to be having some late heartburn about the Kansas contest.
The National Republican Congressional Committee suddenly poured $92,000 into the race last week. There was the last-minute Cruz visit on Monday. And Vice President Mike Pence over the weekend made a robocall for Estes, full of meaningless GOP buzzwords.
Then there are anonymous quotes like this one from a “Kansas Republican operative” in the Washington Examiner: “Ron’s run a horrible campaign. Hasn’t raised much money, his ads are abysmal — no energy.”
Liberal groups are hopping all over the GOP freak-out, saying it shows Thompson has a chance to beat Estes.
— Daily Kos Elections (@DKElections) April 8, 2017
True, this upbeat view of Thompson’s chances suffers from a few big problems.
Nationally, Democrats haven’t given the Thompson race enough attention, focusing far more on a close congressional race in Georgia. Then there was the skirmish among Thompson’s campaign and the Kansas Democratic Party, which refused a campaign request for $20,000 in late March.
Finally, the real question: Are there even enough Democratic voters in the 4th District to elect Thompson?
Kansans and the rest of the nation will find out Tuesday.