WASHINGTON – As Kansas Senate primary barrels close, tensions are mounting between Senate Republicans and the White House over the potential nomination of Kris Kobach, who party officials they fear endangering the seat and continue to endanger the majority of their Senate.
Senator Mitch McConnell is worried that Mr Kobach, the controversial former secretary of state of Kansas who lost the 2018 governor’s race, could win the nomination in Tuesday’s primary, only to lose the seat in November – and is frustrated that President Trump is not intervening in the race, according to multiple GOP officials.
Mr. McConnell and other Republican Senate leaders have made urgent exceptions to the president to block Mr. Kobach by approving one of his opponents, Representative Roger Marshall. But Mr. Trump has so far failed to do so, and his assistants have said they have no plans to change course. Combining the frustration of Capitol Hill Republicans, White House aides refused to tell Mr. Kobach, who has long supported Mr. Trump, to stop using the images of the president in the material. of his campaign.
With a number of Republicans in the Senate who still exist in the polls, and have been raised by their Democratic rivals, they have little room for error as they seek to protect their 53-47 majority. And because of Mr. Trump’s wide popularity, and a health crisis that has destroyed the economy, even a deeply conservative state like Kansas, which has not sent a Democrat to the Senate since the 1930s, is not a sure thing for Senate Republicans. this year.
“We have eight months of data that says the majority will leave if Kris Kobach is the nominee,” said Josh Holmes, Mr McConnell’s top lieutenant. “It’s that simple.”
Mr. Trump’s reluctance to enter the race shows his growing anxiety about his conservative base, whose core is Mr. Kobach’s support in Kansas. The president recently sought his right-wing stand by taking a series of positions, particularly on the race and protests, aimed at solidifying Republican voters who ignored him on his ineffective response to the outbreak of -coronavirus.
On a related note, Mr. Trump, even while drowning in general election voting, is proud of his record of winning losses in those Republican primaries where he approved the candidates, and he stir about what is seen as slowing down the strong in the GOP.
Mr. Kobach has long been an incidental person in Kansas politics, associated with tough views on immigration, voting rights and a host of other issues. It’s especially unpopular in the suburbs of Kansas City, home to traditionally moderate Republicans who moved away from the party in the Trump era. Republicans in Kansas and Washington remain frustrated that he picked up the nomination for governor two years ago, feeling it cost them the seat.
Senate Republicans have long been concerned about Mr. Kobach’s candidacy and for months have sought to include Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a former Kansas congressman, in the race. They have grown even more troubled in recent days, though, after reviewing the results of the Senate Republican poll: The poll showed Mr. Trump leading only narrowly in the state and found that nearly 30 in one-hundred of Republican primary voters indicated they would support the Democratic race Senate, state Senator Barbara Bollier, if Mr. Kobach was the nominee, according to two Republicans familiar with the date.
Mr. Trump has expressed frustration that he approved Mr. Kobach’s bid for governor just two years ago to see him lose, and many Republicans in Congress believe the president will try to stop Mr. Kobach’s candidacy this year. .
But party officials were severely alarmed Thursday after taking word that the president was not inclined to support Mr Marshall.
According to two people familiar with the conversation, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas used an Air Force One flight on Wednesday to steer Mr. Trump away from supporting Mr. Marshall. Mr. Cruz told Mr. Trump that Mr. Marshall had supported former Ohio government John Kasich, now a vocal critic of Trump, in the 2016 primary. Mr. Cruz, who himself led against Mr. Trump, sought to remove some anti-establishment candidates and his top political adviser is working for another candidate in the race.
Representatives for Mr Cruz declined to comment.
The push and pull between Mr McConnell and Mr Cruz reflects the degree to which Mr Trump is increasingly being used by competing GOP factions, which recognize him as a useful ally in the party’s internal fighting. and that the way I appeal to him is to play for his insecurities.
Republicans aligned with the establishments, however, are especially nervous about how the run is taking place and about Mr. Trump’s role in it.
“I don’t understand,” so far Robert Blizzard, a Republican strategist and pollster for Mr. Marshall, has asked about Mr. Trump’s perch on the sidelines. “Considering the strict stuff in terms of holding the majority, why aren’t we all trying to make sure we get a chance to win, to have this Kansas Senate seat It’s about what’s certain. “
David Kensinger, a veteran Republican Kansas strategist, noted that Mr. Trump’s 2018 Mr. Kobach approval was not forgotten.
“Kris Kobach’s career would have been more than two years ago but for Trump’s approval – this is the opportunity for the president to put it right,” he said, still hoping for Marshall’s approval.
But when asked if he had seen any indication that Mr. Trump would do so, he replied, “I don’t,” a view shared by another Republican strategist involved in the race.
Mr Kobach and Mr Marshall are struggling in a brutal and crowded contest that has been defined by negative advertisements and mailers. Particularly troubling to Senate Republicans, an outside group, which appears to be tied to Democrats, was also heavily advertising and attacking Mr. Marshall in an effort to elevate. On Kobach.
In a statement, Mr Kobach said the data showed he would also be competitive against Ms Bollier.
“They know that their stated reason for Marshall’s support is a false one,” he said of what he called the Republican establishment. “The real reason is that they want a man in the Senate – not a conservative in principle.”
Certainly, a statewide race in Kansas remains a challenge for any Democrat, regardless of opponent, in a state where many religious voters prioritize issues such as abortion and the courts, and some moderate voters are leery of the prospect of ‘A Democratic-controlled Senate, whatever their feelings about Mr. Trump, who is still expected to win the state.
And there are many party leaders who are hoping that in the end, Mr Marshall will reign. The crowded negative nature of the Republican primary has made the race fluid and unpredictable, and Mr. Marshall has support from a stable of prominent groups, with deep bags and influential figures including former Senator Bob Dole, the House of Representatives. -Trade and a number of other conservative organizations.
“Next week is a huge week for Republicans to have a chance to hold the Senate,” said Scott W. Reed, the senior political strategist in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who remarked r the breed in Kansas as well as that in Tennessee. “The nomination of a stone-thrower loser in the cold in Kansas guarantees we’ll lose in the fall.”
The primary winner is expected to face Ms Bollier, a retired anesthesiologist who until recently was a Republican and did not have a significant primary battle of her own.
Kansas Republican Party chairman Mike Kuckelman said he did not blame Mr. Trump for not intervening, but said the president “would probably have affected the race if he had approved someone.”
“Maybe it would have been the race a little easier,” he said.