What Does the Kansas Special Election Say About Trump?

Kansas has a new Congressman, as Republican Ron Estes just won a special election to fill the seat vacated by new FBI director Mike Pompeo. Because Estes beat out Democratic nominee James Thompson, the GOP declared the win a sign that the party remains strong. But Democrats point to the mere seven-point margin as a harbinger of Trump’s unpopularity.

The fourth district race was never supposed to be a nail-biter. After all, President Donald Trump won the district by 27 points just a few months earlier in the 2016 election. Even the more tepid Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney won by 25 points in 2012.

Special elections never have quite the same dynamics as those in a presidential year. Even so, this deeply red region wasn’t expected to host a competitive race in the beginning. Yet as President Trump began his term and his policies grew more divisive, the resulting discontent began to put the congressional seat in jeopardy. Meanwhile, Democrats in the area became enthusiastic about sticking it to the GOP, and they organized to send a message.

“In Tuesday’s special election, Democratic early vote was almost twice as large as that for Republicans, according to figures provided to me by a prominent Republican pollster,” CNN’s Chris Cilllizza reports. “That’s a sure sign of a base enthusiasm disparity. And in a district where there are typically twice as many registered Republicans as Democrats, early vote was 44.5% Democratic and 43.5% Republican.”

National Democratic leaders are quick to paint the election as a bellwether of what the 2018 midterms could bring, and there’s certainly the potential for the White House to drag down the rest of the Republican ticket come election day.

“Democrats want to see the close race as proof that Trump’s young administration could inspire a Democratic wave in the 2018 midterms,” reports The Hill. “’The Kansas outcome should be pretty scary for Republicans who are looking at 2018. That should have been a slam dunk for them, but I think it shows how weak Trump is,’ a former aide to the DCCC told The Hill.”

But does this election have any bearing on the Trump administration? It depends who you ask.

Republicans speculate that Governor Sam Brownback’s decision to back Estes could have prompted the lack of support — Brownback is quite unpopular throughout the state at the moment.

Analysts at FiveThirtyEight argue that while Brownback could have been a drag on Estes’s numbers, that doesn’t account for such a narrow margin of victory. After all, Brownback was also unpopular during a 2014 special election, but it didn’t hurt that candidate nearly as much.

“So let’s say there was an 8-point Brownback Drag in 2014,” they posit. “An 8-point drag doesn’t come anywhere close to explaining how Estes did 22 percentage points worse than would be expected in a neutral national environment.”

Whether or not Trump actually impacted Estes’s performance, there is little argument that he failed to meet expectations — especially with public, last-minute support both from the president and social conservative super star, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, in the waning days of the race.

And a second test for the GOP is approaching, too: another special election. In Georgia’s 6th District, Democrat Jon Ossoff hopes to win at least 50 percent of the vote and hold off a runoff race, as over a dozen candidates seek to replace Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price.

Should Ossoff manage a victory and avoid a run off, then yes, it may be time to consider a possible Democratic wave in 2018.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

70 comments

Philippa P
Philippa P2 months ago

Thanks.

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Margie F
Margie FOURIE2 months ago

Well perhaps they will remember it in 2020.

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Deborah W
Deborah W2 months ago

MEANS REPUBLICANS SHOULD GET OFF THEIR DUFFS AND GO VOTE. Nothing is guaranteed just because, unity in massive numbers will more than counter the millions poured into this by Dems hopeful for desired results. Efforts cut down in Kansas, let's do it again in Georgia so they know for sure our motivation is stronger than their deep pockets. GET OUT AND VOTE ...

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Dan Blossfeld
Dan Blossfeld2 months ago

Margaret G.,
That is only if view from the far left. Others would call them mostly conservative, but a far cry from an all right-wing staff.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/dec/09/donald-trump-cabinet-republican-appointments-campaign

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John W
John W2 months ago

Shelly and Herbert, greens stars coming your way!

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Rev. Royce B
Rev. Royce Beasley2 months ago

TIME WILL TELL THE TRUE STORY, DURING MY MINISTRY IN KANSAS. I MET SOME VERY VERY BIGHT HUMANS, AND SMART AS TO WHAT THEIR STATE SHOULD BE DOING.

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Rhoberta E
Rhoberta E2 months ago

shelley w
If President Obama had done all the flip flopping like trump does, we would see you writing a different post.
trump sold his hypocrisy on the stories he told pre-election and you know it. Flexible?? That's HIS word and one of his biggest lies.
You DO remember all the grief he gave President Obama about his golfing and "vacations" don't you??? Well, go to ANY news outlet or source and see how your hero is doing on the taxpayers dime.
Keep believing about that "flexibility" :-)

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Margaret G
Margaret Goodman2 months ago

Dan Blossfeld wrote, " . ... Efforts to paint Trump as a right-winger failed in the ejection, as he attracted many moderates and independents., " Yes, some moderates and independents did vote for Trump. But since the election, every appointment and executive order and law that Trump has signed on to has been right wing.

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Shelley w
Shelley w2 months ago

@Rhoberta E.
The Middle Eastern countries I listed are allies of the United States but you probably would not know that watching how Obama treated them. If you trust the progressive media, you will be duped. I challenge any of you to actually listen to video footage of the reaction of the countries I listed to Trump's actions. What some of you refer to as flip-floping is the action of a true leader who is flexible and able to change positions quickly as new situations arise to make America and the world safer. Obama was frozen in time and was so fearful of making decisions on foreign policies, he lost the respect of many countries around the world.

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