Honest Democrats will tell you they need a break or two to take back the Senate in 2020. They must engineer a net gain of three seats, assuming they win the presidency and the tie-breaking vice-presidency, to give any new president a decent shot at appointing federal judges and executive branch officials and implementing her or his agenda. Alternatively, they’ll need to pick up four net seats to block a reelected and vengeful Donald Trump from the scarier things he might do in a second term. Sure, they have some plausible GOP targets in pursuit of these goals, but the math gets even worse if, as appears likely, Alabama Republicans finally grow tired of Judge Roy Moore’s act and run someone who’s not some sort of theocratic cartoon character against the ultravulnerable Democratic incumbent Doug Jones.
But fresh hope for the Donkey Party may arise today from the plains of Kansas, as the Wichita Eagle reports:
Kris Kobach is telling supporters to gather in Leavenworth Monday afternoon, fueling speculation that he could be preparing a run for the U.S. Senate …
Kobach sent out a news release Monday morning announcing a 1 p.m. speech at the Leavenworth Riverfront Community Center. The release did not not specify whether Kobach would be making a campaign announcement, but the email was sent from an account linked to his old campaign website.
The speculation revolves around the Senate seat Republican Pat Roberts is leaving open with his 2020 retirement. The perpetually ambitious Kobach, a former Kansas secretary of State and a national beacon to nativists and vote suppressors everywhere (not to mention a boon political companion to the president) would be an instant front-runner if he did leap into the Senate race.
And he has, just this day, set up a campaign committee, though his people had to quickly amend the filing with the Federal Election Committee because the initial document misspelled his first name! This will not improve his already terrible reputation for competence in campaign management.
In Kobach’s last campaign, he deposed incumbent governor Jeff Colyer in a 2018 primary only to lose to Democrat Laura Kelly by five points in this normally deep-red state — albeit one where ideological conflict has often afflicted the dominant GOP.
It’s possible Kobach is using senatorial buzz to build interest in a non-campaign project such as his recent efforts to raise private funds to build his hero’s border wall:
Kobach serves as general counsel and as a board member for We Build the Wall, Inc., which has raised more than $24 million for barriers at the U.S.-Mexico border.
If he does announce a Senate run, however, his signature combination of base-energizing fanaticism and poor campaign tactics will worry many of his fellow partisans. Indeed, it could feed an entirely different line of speculation involving one of the few proto-candidates who might challenge Kobach’s support in MAGA-land:
A Kobach candidacy could reignite efforts to recruit Secretary of State Mike Pompeo into the race. Pompeo has repeatedly downplayed his interest in a run, but he remains the first choice for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Groups with ties to McConnell have indicated that they could spend money against Kobach in a primary.
A Kobach-Pompeo primary would be wild fun — for Democrats.
Update, July 8, 3:20 PM: Kobach did indeed announce his Senate candidacy today. So it’s game on.