The establishment organ The Wall Street Journal has unearthed an internal Republican poll that seems designed to promote Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s conventional strategy for retaining Republican control of the upper chamber of Congress. The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) commissioned an Oct. 21-23 telephone survey of 607 likely Kansas primary voters, which found that Kris Kobach has a dominant lead in the race to claim the GOP candidacy for the 2020 Senate in the Sunflower State – unless Secretary of State Mike Pompeo jumps in.
“Sixty percent of Mr. Kobach’s voters would move to Mr. Pompeo were he on the ballot, the poll found,” The Journal reported. “And in a head-to-head contest, Mr. Pompeo would beat Mr. Kobach, 68%-24%.”
This appears to be good news for Kobach in that it shows him well ahead in a field without Pompeo. The poll, however, and the attendant media coverage of its being made public almost two months later, seems designed to advance a contrived Republican Swamp narrative.
Here He Comes to Save the Day?
Kris Kobach is an immigration hardliner and a particularly vociferous advocate of getting President Trump’s promised border wall built. This makes him “controversial” among Washington, D.C. Republicans. Mike Pompeo openly embraces aggressive neoconservative foreign policy talking points on Syria, Iran, and Russia even as he works for a president who has vowed to pull back from America’s interventionism abroad over the past 20-odd years of endless war. This makes him a “safe” choice in the eyes of McConnell – who has strongly encouraged a Pompeo run in Kansas – and for the NRSC, which sees Pompeo as the man who will save Republicans from the supposed dangers of an extremist Kobach nomination.
“Mr. Pompeo’s entry into the race would dramatically alter the primary landscape,” The Wall Street Journal cooed as it further broke down the NRSC internal poll. “The new survey found Mr. Pompeo with a strong image among likely Kansas Republican primary voters, even as the impeachment drama unfolded in Washington this fall. Seventy four percent had favorable opinions of Mr. Pompeo, compared to 13% with unfavorable opinions.”
Media accounts frequently emphasize that Kobach lost a tight race for Kansas governor to Laura Kelly in 2018. They neglect to mention that the same establishment Republicans who fret over his Senate run now opposed him then. The former Republican governor of Kansas, Bill Graves, and longtime GOP Senator Nancy Kassebaum went so far as to vocally endorse Kelly. Yet these Republicans would have you believe they are only interested in “winning.”
All Plotted Out Long Ago
“If Mike Pompeo doesn’t run, we don’t have a prayer,” a top Republican strategist said of the NRSC poll, The Journal reports. This is the real message being sent, and it’s been in the works for quite some time. The NRSC has long made no secret of its strong opposition to a Kobach Senate bid. Way back in May, in fact, Cook Political Report senior editor, Jennifer Duffy, stated that the NRSC game plan would be to paint Kobach as a risk that needs to be avoided.
“They’ll do some actual spending if it comes to that,” Duffy told McClatchy news service all those months ago, referring to the NRSC, “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.”
Apparently, they have an alternative candidate now. The newly unearthed internal poll perfectly fits this playbook, especially by implying that Pompeo is some kind of shoo-in if he decides to run. He has denied interest up to now but there are signs that a change in course may be imminent. On Dec. 2 Pompeo gave a speech at the University of Louisville’s McConnell Center, a political institute co-founded by and named after the GOP Senate leader who is so actively courting him. He also just created a personal Twitter account, blue check-mark already attached, furthering speculation about his political future.
It should be disquieting, then, for Trump supporters who voted the president into office as an outsider who would alter the political landscape – most particularly within the Republican Party itself – to see him echo the artificial GOP framing of the Kansas primary. Yet Trump played into McConnell’s hands by affirming the completely unproven notion that Pompeo would be certain to lock up a Kansas Senate seat for Republicans.
“Mike would win easily in Kansas,” Trump stated on Nov. 22. “He came to me and said ‘Look, I’d rather stay where I am,’ but he loves Kansas, he loves the people of Kansas. If he thought there was a chance of losing that seat, I think he would do that and he would win in a landslide.”
Mitch McConnell and his cohorts at the NRSC are working overtime to convince GOP voters that an America First candidate, cast in the same outsider mold as the president, is a recklessly dangerous option for a Senate race and that only a “conventional” Republican should be trusted in such an important election. Trump personally blew this tired framing to smithereens in 2016 yet his own secretary of state is being used to advance it once again as we head into 2020.
Four years after Donald Trump triumphantly stormed his way through the party’s presidential primaries it appears that the Republican Party establishment remains deeply divided.
Read more from Joe Schaeffer.