The Associated Press makes a lot of presumptions about what voters are thinking in a story that asks whether Kansans are ready to embrace a conservative Governor, Kris Kobach, in 2018.
“If you thought Kansas emerged from its long budget crisis to reject deep-red politics and move back toward the center, think again,” the tale begins.
The first presumption is clouds are parting from a budget crisis. Kansas’ budget is balanced thanks to the highest tax income hike in state history, but if current numbers hold, it will be under water in two years. And that’s without factoring in additional school funding–a likely possibility as lawmakers face an April 2018 deadline to parade a new financing formula before the Kansas Supreme Court.
“A year ago, many voters concluded that Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s experiment in cutting income taxes had ended in failure, opening the door to a more moderate agenda,” the AP story continues.
What is the “moderate” agenda? More taxes? More state spending? The article doesn’t say, and most people in Kansas probably couldn’t tell you what the “moderate” agenda is. Still, the AP suggests Secretary of State Kobach, the likely gubernatorial frontrunner, isn’t a part of the agenda, whatever “it” is.
Kobach’s agenda isn’t outlined in the article. The writer simply notes the Kansas Secretary of State is a “hardline provocateur on immigration and voter ID laws,” who opposes abortion and advocates for gun-rights. The article barely touches on his stances on taxation, spending, or school funding, while admitting most 2016 Kansas candidates focused on those issues.
“People know who I am,” Kobach is quoted. “I don’t have to spend a lot of time and money explaining what my position is or what my brand is.”
The story implies Kobach’s agenda is Brownback’s agenda, and Brownback’s agenda is bad. And yet, the article admits, Kobach has a very real chance of winning.
Though raw voter data is available, the story relies on subjective opinions of a voter who values “pragmatism” over policy, a data scientists who says he doesn’t “trust” Kobach, and a Republican officeholder who campaigned for the Democratic gubernatorial candidate in 2014.
In 2014, Kobach received more votes than anyone else on the ballot. His 508,926 votes amounted to 20,000 more votes than he received in his first election for the Secretary of State job. In contrast, Brownback won reelection in 2014 by capturing 433,196 votes. Had it been a two-way race in 2014–there was a Libertarian candidate who garnered 4 percent of the votes–Brownback would have needed 434,752 votes to win. Kobach could lose almost 75,000 of the votes he received in 2014 and still win in a two-way race. That’s the math available, but the AP didn’t chose to include it.
The math is evidence that the Kansas Secretary of State is a viable gubernatorial candidate in a general election whether there are two candidates or many more. Kobach will have to compete in a crowded Republican primary.
Sen. Barbara Bollier, a Republican, campaigned for Paul Davis, the Democratic candidate in the 2014 Governor’s race. She states the obvious, telling the AP Kobach “definitely has a path to victory.”
The remainder of her quote is pure conjecture: “And it definitely has to do with the numbers rather than necessarily what most people want,” she says.
It all begs the question: If Kobach is too conservative for an electorate “weary of ideological drama,” how can he be the frontrunner and likely winner? The article insinuates a Kobach win is possible, primarily due to fractures in the Democratic and Republican parties, but the data says Kansas voters like Kobach.
Perhaps, the Kansas electorate is a conservative one, and voters prefer a tougher talking candidate like Kobach to a gentle conservative like Brownback.