Monday, December 21, 2009

The State of the Conservative Movement in Kansas

Kaw & Border has made no bones about it -- we are a conservative blog. Founded to tell the stories of politics within the Kansas City area, one of our main focuses has been on the conservative movement. As we head into the 2010 election cycle, it is important to address the current state of the conservative movement in Kansas.

In order to address the current state of things as well as prospects for the future, it is always healthy to look back at history to see how we got to this point. Kansas, after all, has been a bit of a political oddity in recent years. A red state, in 2006, it sent two Democrats to Congress in Nancy Boyda and Dennis Moore. In 2002, it sent hard-right conservative Phill Kline and herd-left liberal Kathleen Sebelius to statewide offices in the same election. Even if you look at Johnson County specifically, you'll see diametrically opposed people in new State Senator Terrie Huntington and movement conservative State Senator in Mary Pilcher Cook. And while certainly their two districts are different, to have that major of divergence within the same geographic area is stunning.

The story of the decade of the 2000's is that conservatives were largely on the retreat in Kansas. We never had the Governorship. The only statewide office we held was AG, and we lost that 60-40 in the re-election battle. Conservatives never had control of the State Senate, despite Republican majorities of 31-9 at the current time. While one could argue conservatives had control of the House, they were unable to stop bloated budgets or state-supported gambling. Lynn Jenkins, who has been a fine Congresswoman, defeated Jim Ryun, who is definitely more conservative, particularly on social issues. On the grassroots level, while conservatives have had control of the state party, that movement has not shown itself in terms of a strong bench -- which is most clear in Johnson County, where our support for local offices is slim to none, and where only arguably 8 or 9 of the 22 House and maybe 2 or 3 of the 7 Senate seats are held by a conservative. And we didn't have a credible challenge to Moore (credible being single digits) in 2004, 2006, or 2008.

The good news for the conservative movement is that 2010 represents an historic - generational, really -- opportunity to alter this picture that not only shows itself in a short term election result but in long term ways as well. This has been brought on by several factors, the strongest of which is the utter collapse of the Democratic Party in Kansas as well as nationally. Obama, who actually won the 3rd District in 2008, has seen his national approval ratings sink to the mid 40's. The Democratic Party is led by a bunch of socialist progressives who are increasingly unapologetic and unrelenting in their extreme beliefs, exposing their real agenda to the public at large, who is soundly rejecting them. This has resulted in several "safe" people retiring, which includes Dennis Moore, who won by 16 points just one year ago.

In Kansas, the Democratic slide could be seen before Obama came along, however. Sebelius may have brought some money into the party, but Democratic gains in Kansas were largely built upon Republicans switching parties instead of their own base of new candidates. Mark Parkinson, Paul Morrison, Cindy Neighbor, Lisa Benlon -- all former GOP Rinos. When Parkinson had a chance to elevate a rising star to Lt. Governor, he whiffed. Raj Goyle has raised a lot of money but will get crushed in Wichita. Laura Kelly is an okay candidate, but has been unremarkable as a Senator. On social issues, State Treasurer Dennis McKinney votes like a Republican. Steve Six is the most powerful person they have left, but in a GOP year of 2010, will easily get defeated by Derek Schmidt. The legislative seats they have in JoCo are held by a band of characters -- Benlon, Neighbor, Furtado, Slattery, Talia, and Rardin -- that represent one of the weakest benches one could possibly come up with -- and at least half, if not all -- of those six will get defeated in 2010.

Point is, the Democrats are at a point in Kansas where they were around 1994 -- nothing. With hardcore moderates not exactly in great shape either (Thornburgh is leaving, Jenkins is voting conservative in Congress, and Praeger has no future), that means the playing field is left for conservatives to seize. The question is -- will they?

For the first time in Kansas history, Kansas will have a Governor widely regarded as a conservative in Sam Brownback. While he certainly has made some segments of the conservative movement upset from time to time, he unquestionably is the most powerful figure conservatives have had in state history, and that is saying something. Not only does it present historic legislative opportunities on the areas of life, the budget, and other areas as well, it also presents historic political opportunities as well. By the time he is done being Governor, if he actually governs and campaigns like a conservative, Kansas should be a rock solid deep red state -- and by deep red, we don't just mean a bunch of people elected with R by their name -- by deep red, we mean real conservatives.

The problem, is, however, that it is not currently clear that is the direction Brownback specifically and the conservative movement in general will go. There is a reason, after all, that Sam Brownback is not trusted by some elements of the conservative movement. The fact that there are some conservative elements still pushing the candidacies of Nick Jordan and Jerry Moran show that there are some who want to operate like it is 2000 rather than 2010. 2000 was a time when the Morans and Jordans of the world would have been outstanding candidates. They are, after all, Bush-era-style Republicans who vote socially conservative but on the large scheme of issues are in truth, moderates -- both in terms of style and approach, the people they choose to politically align themselves with, and how they view the country in general. And while most expect Jordan, Moran, and Brownback, if they are elected, to largely "vote" or "govern" as conservatives, as they will all most assuredly campaign as, there is concern that when the current intensity brought on by the health care debate and Obama subsides, that they will return to their previous reputations as "go along/get along" type of conservatives that they were the most of their careers.

On the flip side, you also have the emerging tea party and 9/12 movements that, largely due to their infancy, have yet to completely take shape yet in terms of a real political movement. Many of their leaders and members, after all, are new to the political system (a good thing in large part) or were previously part of more limited movements, like the Ron Paul presidential candidacy. While their passion and numbers are certainly impressive, it is currently unclear whether that will show itself at the actual ballot box -- and beyond that, in terms of any kind of governing coalition that can actually accomplish tasks in a way that appeals to the large general public which is not part of their particular part of the conservative movement. Time will tell on this front.

On a related note, it is also currently unclear how the traditional conservative movement in Kansas and nationally will react to the emergence of the tea party movement, which although largely social conservative in its membership, is FOCUSED on fiscal issues. Many of the tea party members are "hands off" libertarians, which includes those who would rather steer clear of social conservative issues as a focus. For those active on the social conservative front in Kansas -- it is currently apparent that churches -- both Protestant and Catholic, which is where the social conservative movement is largely based -- are currently relatively disengaged when it comes to politics in Kansas. Over time, it will be interesting to see whether social issues such as marriage and life are relegated to the back burner or whether it is more of a temporary phenomenon due to the focus on the exploding budgets and health care.

The traditional social conservative and tea party movement conservatives should be allied - and certainly will be when it comes to unseating Democrats and RINO Republicans. However, what remains to be seen is how that plays out once their candidates are victorious and they have legislative majorities and/or statewide offices. Anytime one party has control, it naturally splinters into competing groups, and we are seeing the emergence of that right now. You have the "go along/get along" conservatives, who have many positions of power, who want to promote those such as Jerry Moran and Nick Jordan. You have traditional conservatives, who fuel campaigns such as that of Tim Huelskamp. And you have tea party conservatives, who due to their newness on the scene, don't have a lineup of candidates yet (though some are beginning to emerge for the state legislature), but are nonetheless a force in Kansas now.

To us, it will be intriguing to watch the battle emerge and see how it plays out in political races. Patricia Lightner in the 3rd District and Mike Pompeo in the 4th District are campaigning hard to appeal to both the social conservative and tea party movement conservative.. In the 3rd District, Yoder has the old RINO vote while in the 4th, Jean Schodorf does. In the 4th District, you have social conservative Dick Kelsey who has earned the endorsement of several socially conservative groups, while Pompeo has conservative legislators like Wagle, Landwehr, and Kelley. In the 1st District, Huelskamp seems to have both the tea party and traditional conservative vote locked up, but has a field of 5 opponents to deal with.

As we enter 2010, the question for the next decade will be -- what shape will the conservative movement take in Kansas? Will it go back to the Bush era with Jordan and Moran? Will it go for movement conservatives with experience like Huelskamp, Lightner, Tiahrt, and Pompeo? Or will it fail completely and promote those like Yoder, Schodorf, and Barnett? (to be fair to Yoder, he's moved right a bit, but his base is still the moderates, without question) This won't just play itself out in the big races, but in the legislative races as well. From which part of the movement do candidates emerge? Will they work together or fight? Will they support Brownback or criticize him?

We offer no prediction here at Kaw & Border, only to say that the next ten years will define conservatism in Kansas for a political generation. After all, all 6 federal seats in Kansas were held by their most recent representatives for at least 10 years. So whoever is chosen for these positions -- and the many legislative seats below them -- will define Republicanism and conservatism in Kansas for years to come -- and indeed, what exactly being a "deep red state" means in the eyes of the voter.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Doug Hoffman -- Wave of the Future?

From time to time, we at Kaw & Border like to talk about races in other parts of the country, particularly when the implications of such a race have a profound impact on the political makeup of the nation, and could have long term impact.

This is the case in the 23rd Congressional District of New York, which has been the subject of the the national political buzz this week.

In this race, we have a very liberal Republican -- Dierdre Scozzafava, who has gotten the support of the national Republican party yet holds positions that are well to the left of most Republicans, and is a classic RINO; a liberal Democrat, Bill Owens; and the New York Conservative Party nominee, Doug Hoffman.

What's making this race interesting is that Hoffman has gotten the endorsement of the Club for Growth, Fred Thompson, and now, Sarah Palin. Polls show Hoffman closing in on both the Republican and the Democrat, and there is some indication he has passed Scozzafava.

If he would win in the end -- which is a strong possibility -- it would deal a signficant blow to the national Republican establishment, who increasingly seems to care nothing about what a candidates beliefs are, but simply about whether there is an R in front of that person's name.

A couple of posts ago, we talked about how nominating a moderate Republican is perfectly acceptable in certain situations -- such as STATEWIDE Senate races in Illinois, Delaware, and yes, even New York. But even in New York, where at least Pataki and Guiliani have a strong basis for their Republicanism, we can do better than an open RINO in a right-of-center district like the 23rd, where a conservative can win if given the backing.

It makes no sense to us that in 2010 -- the cycle of the tea parties, town halls, etc..where it is a good thing to be a conservative for once, versus a regular Republican, that the party would nominate people like Scozzafava. Unfortunately, that's just what they did, just like they got behind Crist in Florida, another place a conservative can do well.

If indeed Hoffman is successful -- which we believe is likely given the introduction of Palin, who we feel is a significant political force -- then it could have ramfications for races nationwide, and for the future of the Republican Party in general.

Of course, we have to be cognizant of the fact that New York is unique in that the Conservative Party has strength there. However, it has not successfullly ran candidates for Congress, so this would be a significant upset.

That said, given the recent polls which indicate that now just 20% of Americans identify themselves as Republicans -- which clearly shows that even a lot of Republicans really are just registered that way, but are more and more calling themselves conservatives instead -- a Hoffman victory could be the seed for a real movement towards a third "conservative" party, if the Republican Party doesn't get their act together quickly.

We believe that a "third party" movement for conservatives is less likely to happen in conservative states like in the south, but more likely to happen in states where moderates are the favorite of the party establishment. The key for any "conservative party" to succeed would be to get signficant backing from national figures consistently, such as Fred Thompson or Sarah Palin. That said, we don't feel either will ever get directly involved in third party in such a formal way, but perhaps get increasingly involved in primaries.

And in the end, this is where we believe the focus of conservatives should be. Tea Party folks and traditional conservatives alike should think twice before going down the third party road -- but rather, aggressively seek to DEFINE the term Republican to mean the core values of protecting life, limited government, lower taxes, economic freedom, and individual liberty.

However, what the Hoffman situation -- as well as the Joe Wilson situation in South Carolina -- shows is that the conservative grassroots has the ability to have an incredible impact when they direct their resources to a particular candidate. Joe Wilson raised $2.6 million in just a few weeks. If conservative underdog candidates -- such as Lightner in the 3rd District of Kansas and Turk in the 5th District of Missouri (both seats that the "Republican establishment" have written off) -- were to earn similar support, seats nationwide that were previously seen as safe for Democrats would soon become in play.

Likewise, it is going to be increasingly difficult - and this is also a good thing -- for RINOs to run in primaries if a conservative candidate gets the kind of backing they need by the Wilson/Hoffman effect. We're starting to see this with Chuck DeVore's campaign in California, for instance, who is running against RINO Carly Fiorina. We're seeing it in Florida, where Marco Rubio raised $1 million in the 3rd Quarter against RINO Charlie Christ.

The reason for this new reality of American politics is the internet and social networking sites like Facebook. A simple Sarah Palin Facebook post to her 900K+ supporters can fund a candidate alone. Fred Thompson, Mark Levin, Mike Huckabee, etc...along with groups like Club for Growth, have huge followings on Facebook and can in a few keystrokes direct their troops to support candidates around the country that meet their approval.

Liberals, of course, have done this for years. We saw this is in 2008 right here in our own backyard, when Sean Tevis raised more than $100K against Arlen Siegfreid. He lost, but the race was quite competitive as a result.

Of course, this isn't to say that anyone can win. You still have to have the right kind of profile, experience, and strategy to win or even get that kind of financial grassroots support anyway. That said, if through SarahPAC, FredPAC and other PAC's/Facebook pages/email lists, conservatives start to employ this similar strategy, the days of the establishment in any particular race controlling who runs are over.

Moreover, it is our belief that those in the establishment might want to stop shunning conservatives. While we may not be your favorite guest at your next wine and cheese party, we are where the country is leaning now. Yes, it's okay to be a fiscal conservative. Yes, it's okay to be a social conservative. People simply don't want a zealot -- they want someone principled, driven to run for office because they believe in something.

This is a good thing, in the end. Candidates will no longer be afraid to say they are a conservative. Inside party politics will become less and less important, and those in office will increasingly be held responsible.

So, if you're a candidate for office reading this blog -- don't be afraid to stand up for what you believe. Don't think you have to go the old way and get permission from the party bosses in order to run. Go around them. It's hard work, but the way to win in 2010 is through the grassroots, through standing up for what you believe, and doing so in a confident way.

If you do that, you're eventually going to get noticed, and you'll get the support you need. So be strong, campaign hard, and you might be the next Doug Hoffman.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Kansas Watchdog: Labette CC President Reimbursed for Political Donation?

We like to give credit to other blogs/news sites that cover stories you might not hear about in your local paper. One such case is one of the current headlines at the Kansas Watchdog..."Labette Community College President Reimbursed for Political Donation".

You can read all the details here. Apparently George Knox was reimbursed by the college for a political donation to Dennis McKinney. Hat tip to Kansas Watchdog for covering this story and for bringing it to the attention of those concerned about Open Records and good government.

Kansans overall need to be more watchful of their local governments. Often dominated by those to the left side of political aisle and those in the elite of their communities, they can be breeding grounds for this kind of behavior. Thankfully, one of the LCC Trustees blew the whistle here.

We need more whistle blowers in local government. Even if you are just one of 8 or two of 8, it can make a huge difference when it comes to things like cutting corners on open records, open meetings, and in this case, taxpayer dollars. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and just a voice at the table, however uncomfortable, can make government more honest.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Fundraising Numbers - The Rest of the Story

Every quarter, federal candidates rush to get as many donations in as possible for their campaigns. Though not something that matters with the electorate at large, political insiders right and left pay a great deal of attention to them.

In reviewing the reports, it is important to remember a couple of things. First of all, do the campaigns have enough to compete? Second, if it's a new campaign, at one pont in the quarter did their fundraising clearly start, and what pace are they on?

Our view is this: As long as a campaign is on a good pace and/or has enough money to do what they need to do campaign wise, it matters little who outraised who except for bragging rights. The reason is that you have basic political factors such as the ideological makeup of a district, as well as the mere fact that there is only so much money you can spend on advertising, mailings, etc, before you have diminishing returns.

For example, if two candidates for a Congressional seat are running -- and one has $300K and one has $600K, the $300K person will probably be fine as long as his pace is solid. The key is that Candidate A has enough money to accomplish their campaign goals. So, political watchers should beware of taking too much out of reports, particularly in September 2009. The key report will be on July 15 of 2010 for the primary and October 15, 2010 for the general.

With that being said, here are some notables:

US Senate Race
Jerry Moran had over $3.1 million cash on hand coming in, and raised another $520,000 according to an email. Todd Tiahrt had $1.5 million coming in, and his campaign has yet to release figures.

This is a good example of not putting too much of a story into the gap. Assuming that Tiahrt raises a good amount of money in the 3rd Quarter as well, he has plenty of money to run a great campaign. Moran is more of the establishment candidate, so it is not surprising he has more money. Tiahrt is more of the grassroots candidate, but he has plenty of money to run in a low-media market state like Kansas, particularly in the primary cycle.

We believe this race will be decided not in what money these candidates have -- as they both have plenty, but in how well that money will be spent -- messaging, grassroots, etc. We'll see!

1st Congressional District
Tim Huelskamp announced the other day he had raised an impressive $181,000, which will add onto the $235K he had coming in. His website indicates he has almost $380K on hand, plenty (particularly with two more quarters to follow) to do everything he needs to do in a primary election, which is the race in the Big First. The other reports are not announced yet, but from our vantage point, Huelskamp clearly is in the drivers seat here -- this is a case of a district having an idelogical makeup that clearly favors Huelskamp, and given his strong grassroots conservative support, he has plenty of money to continue as the clear front runner.

3rd Congressional District
This is a completely different situation than the Senate or Big First races, as no candidates had done ANYTHING as of June 30 -- versus candidates in other races who are either long time incumbents or who have been in the race since the beginning of the year or before. In this quarter, we had Patricia Lightner, who entered the race in late August, as well as two other candidates, John Rysavy and Daniel Gilyeat, who have been out for about two months a piece.

So, in these cases one can't look at the overall number because the candidates have only been out for, in some cases, two to three weeks with any kind of fundraising operation or even a campaign, period. This is a case where one has to look deeper at the report for the real story.

In this case, looking at the current frontrunner, Patricia Lightner, what you can see is quite impressive. She got in the race with a website in late August, and as we've discussed on this blog, at least 15 candidates have been rumored, and it was unclear who was going to run and not run. It also takes time to get any kind of fundraisinge opeartion going.

Still, in that environment, she raised $35,000. More specifically, when you look at her report, you see that the vast majority of her contributions came in the last week of September, just as the race was beginning to define itself. She raised about $16,000 in individual contributions (plus the $18,500 she put in herself), and a quick look at her report shows at least 75-80% of those were in the last week. If you extrapolate it out over a full quarter, that is just slightly behind Huelskamp, who is probably the high water mark for conservative candidates. As the race continues to define itself and as people stop saying "its early", her pace could very well pick up and she will be at a good pace to compete with Moore.

Trailing her was John Rysavy, who had about $10K on hand, and had loaned $8500 to himself. Gilyeat has yet to file, as of the time of this email.

In a subsequent email, we'll examine the situation in the 4th District, where Raj Goyle has apparently raised $400,000 as a Democrat in a seat perceived as safe, and where at least 5 Republicans are running -- as well as in the 2nd, where Laura Kelly just recently announced she is running against Lynn Jenkins, who has a fiscally conservative voting record but is mixed on social issues.

In all of these reports, it's always best to see one, the pace the candidate is on; two, do they have enough to compete; three, when they entered the race. That's more important than simply looking at overall numbers and comparing candidates.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Politics of Realism

In case it wasn't already clear to you, Kaw & Border is a believer in the conservative movement. We believe in such things as lower taxes, limited government, empowering the individual, the right to life, and the rule of law -- and we believe in promoting those principles wherever possible, and making the term "Republican" actually mean something again other than a mere label for a political party.

In that same spirit, we also believe in electing conservative candidates to public office and giving them the support necessary to win. Not supporting these candidates will mean the causes we are fighting for will never be implemented. We've talked enough about great candidates on this blog to make this abundantly clear -- you have to win elections in order to win the battle on policy.

In trying to achieve these two noble goals, it is also important we also remember the old axiom to not let the perfect be the enemy of the good -- or in the case of some, letting the good be the enemy of the perfect. It is important that as conservatives, as activists, as candidates -- we stay focused on the game at hand -- in the words of Hank Stram, "Let's matriculate the ball down the field, boys."

Politically speaking, that means rather than attempting hail mary passes, we should focus on continuing to make short but steady gains, and in the process, setting realistic and achievable goals both in terms of fielding candidates and pushing for certain policies. While this requires patience, this strategy, over time, results in the same finale we're all looking for -- better policies, better politicians, and, as a side benefit, it also makes longer term "dreams" more achievable as well.

One would think this concept would be simple to grasp on the surface. However, while most of the consequences in this era of "Facebook politics" are positive, one challenge can be that sometimes groups or individuals become so driven and so passionate about the trees that they forget to see the forest -- i.e., they demand perfection on an issue or in a candidate, and they end up, either intentionally or not, vilifying those who are not perfect, and end up undermining quality candidates who they are in philosophical agreement with on 95% of the issues.

As Ronald Reagan once said, "the person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and an ally — not a 20 percent traitor."

We call it the Politics of Realism -- i.e., in our pursuit of noble conservative goals, making sure we stay focused on goals that are achieveable, and not vilifying those who not perceived as perfect and/or disagree on the nuances of a particular policy.

Specifically, we at Kaw & Border have noticed a few trends lately that concern us, both when it comes to politics as well as policy:

One of the most active grassroots organizations are those who support the FairTax. Now, don't get us wrong -- we believe the FairTax supporters have every right to push their issue. However, one trend we have noticed among them is the direct criticism of candidates who have not yet endorsed their particular idea for tax reform. One email forwarded to Kaw & Border criticized a local Congressional candidate for simply studying the issue...God forbid.

Many conservatives support tax reform in general, but may not support the FairTax for one reason or the other -- and those that fall into that category shouldn't be treated like they are no different than a tax-and-spend Democrat. Browbeating candidates who support tax reform but aren't quite on board with one version of it is not a way to achieve victory nor win the support of those who are legitimately on the fence on the issue.

Finally, whether one agrees with the FairTax or not -- and conservatives have legitimate opinions on both sides of that coin (we won't get into that here)-- it is not likely to be implemented anytime soon. The reason is that it would require a repeal of the 16th Amendment in order to prevent a tax on both income and consumption. Such a repeal would require a 2/3 majority in Congress and then 3/4 of the states. Even if Republicans were to have control of Congress, getting to those numbers is a very difficult task.

What is achievable is getting to a majority in Congress of those who believe in tax reform period -- whether it be significant tax reductions, simplification of the tax code, or even a flat tax -- proposals that move the ball closer to what the FairTax people want. And, it could be that when such ideas are implemented, people are happy with it and that slows support for the FairTax -- and it could be that's what they fear.

The fact is the FairTax idea has been being pushed for over a decade, despite the fact the FairTax folks are a very dedicated, largely conservative full of passionate individuals who spend many hours devoted to their cause. Perhaps if that energy was devoted to tax reform in general and supporting candidates who are legitimately committed to tax reform, they might find their ball getting advanced quicker than it is now.

On a political level, we also see this demand for perfection playing out as well.

Take the battle for the U.S. Senate. There are only a certain number of seats available -- and four of them - Connecticut, Illinois, Delaware, and New York -- are legitimately open for the taking like they haven't been for Republicans in literally a generation. However, in each case -- due to the makeup of each state -- the likely Republican nominee will be someone quite moderate. In Connecticut, Rob Simmons. In Illinois, Mark Kirk. In Delaware, Mike Castle. And in New York, George Pataki.

Let us be clear -- Simmons, Kirk, Castle, and Pataki are not our kinds of Republicans. And, if they were running in Texas, Alabama, Florida, and Kansas, we wouldn't support their candidacies. But they aren't. And most importantly, they could all legitimately take the seats that are or were recently held by Chris Dodd, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and Hillary Clinton. The psychological impact of taking all these seats -- combined with likely conservative takeovers in Colorado (Bennett), Arkansas (Lincoln), Nevada (Harry Reid), and Pennsylvania (Specter)-- would be a political earthquake that we have not seen before.

Yet, a simple trip down conservative blogs and grassroots sites reveals a great deal of sniping at the candidates in those four seats, even though there is no realistic conservative choice in any of them that could prevail in November. This sniping, if it continues, could have a bad effect on Republicans ability to make gains in Congress.

Our point is this -- in states that are to the hard left of American politics - there is nothing wrong with supporting candidates who are even 60% with us -- over those who are on the opposite side of everything we believe in.

At a local level, we also have to be careful. There are a lot of conservatives quite upset with Senator Sam Brownback, who is running for Governor. Go to any tea party or conservative website and you'll see the criticisms. To be sure, Sam's record isn't perfect, and there are legitimate reasons to criticize him.

However -- Sam Brownback represents the first time in Kansas history for a conservative to be elected Governor. He is, unquestionably, a pro-life, pro-lower tax, pro-limited government, pro business Republican who would likely support judicial reform, budget reform, and the enforcement of our state's abortion laws.

Yet, what's happened in the past few months is that Sam's numbers have dropped below 50%. He is now at just a 48% approval rating...a probably safe yet dangerous number, if Democrats actually had a candidate. Though this alarmingly low number is not exclusively due to the constant doubt about Sam that is out there, and though perhaps Sam himself could do more to address it, the point is that the constant drumbeat of doubts has an effect, right when we as conservatives should be the most excited and rallying behind him. If someone has an issue with Sam's strategy, that's fine -- but there is way too much "bash Sam" talk out there for this blog, for pretty shaky reasons.

Finally, in the 3rd District race, we've pointed out regularly on this blog about the constant speculation about potential candidates, while a passionately conservative candidate -- Patricia Lightner, who has the personal profile to appeal to a large cross-section of voters necessary to win -- continues to campaign her butt off throughout the district.

Lightner, in some folks eyes, is not their ideal choice...a view of Facebook posts and on some websites reveals talk about how though they love her on the issues, they don't like the fact she's a lawyer, or was a lobbyist, or that she doesn't give fiery speeches....so they go off on a never-ending search for "St. Perfect Candidate".

In our eyes, as we've said before, Lightner is a great candidate -- conservative yet independent, outspoken yet not in your face, strong yet thoughtful, principled yet respectful. She may not be perfect for one reason or the other, but no candidate is -- not other state legislators, not a certain radio talk show host, and certainly not a local newspaper publisher.

That's to say she doesn't have faults. Every candidate does. But the point is this search for the perfect eventually harms the good -- the cause we are all fighting for at the end of the day -- which is defeating Dennis Moore with a conservative candidate. The fact is, in most races, candidates have been out for nearly the entire year, building support, organization, and funds. In the 3rd District, potential candidates have had MONTHS to get in the race, yet only Patricia Lightner, Daniel Gilyeat, and John Rysavy have done so.

It's mid-October, folks, and the election is not all that far away -- and there comes a point where energy is better spent on helping the candidate who has been in the race for months and is already walking -- versus putting together petitions in an attempt to convince candidates who aren't in the race to simply think about running, let alone put together the massive campaign necessary to win a Congressional race.

While this desire for perfection is understandable in the light of so many failures of people in public office, and may be driving the desire to find those outside of the political arena, we should not let it cloud our overall judgment when it comes to realistically achieving our aims...particularly when those efforts could end up splitting the votes of those conservatives, thus opening the door for a Pat Colloton to get in.

These are just three examples of where the conservative movement may want to adjust its intensity-meter. Let's not forget that the only way we'll ever achieve our aims is to actually win elections. Winning elections is not easy -- it requires months of careful planning and a great deal of momentum and enthusiasm. Winning elections also means electing human beings to public office, not robots who simply respond to commands, but to persuasion and reasoned arguments. That's how you win on policy, and that's how this country ends up being better than it was before we got started.

Achieving victory on both politics and policy will be built through realistic aims, goals, and the unity of those who agree on 90% of the issues, focused on the election of those who are not perfect, even if we'd like them to be.

Let's not let the 10% destroy us.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Did the Johnson County Sun Fire Its Editors?

Since our inception, we at Kaw & Border have not been easy on the good ol' Johnson County Sun, particularly its publisher, Steve Rose. The local rag, which is now mailed to homes in an attempt to force people to read it, has declined sharply in quality and in impact over the years, save local city elections, when the 9% of people who actually vote still rely on the Sun for information, largely becuase it's sadly one of the only sources covering Spring elections.

Unlike many in Johnson County who do not receive it, we at Kaw & Border do, and given our interest in the 3rd District race, took particular interest in this article, entitled "Several folks still eyeing 3rd District Congressional Race." We'll skip right on by the odd use of "folks" in a newspaper headline and move straight to the content of the article, written by Chuck Kurtz:

This is quite possibly the worst piece of journalism ever written.

In this instance, it wasn't because the piece was slanted to the left, or even to the right. It wasn't because it didn't have some decent quotes and information -- it did. The problem is that it was horribly written, completely ignored some candidates, undermentioned one candidate, and over-covered people who the article even admits aren't even running, while ignoring another one who is seriously considering it. The end result was that it didn't provide readers with actual information about what is going on in the race.

Let's start off with the fact the article only briefly touched on the one major candidate who is actually running (as we've talked about here a few times) and that is Patricia Lightner. Here is the excerpt:

With the Republican primary less than a year away, the names of possible contenders to challenge 10-year Democratic incumbent Dennis Moore for the 3rd District congressional seat are numerous.

So far, only one is for sure: former State Rep. Patricia Lightner, R-Olathe, who lived in Overland Park when she served in Topeka from 1998 to 2004. She filed with the Federal Election Commission last August to seek the Republican candidacy to go against Moore.

She considers herself the front-runner.

“At this point, I’m the primary candidate,” she said. “I’m the one, I believe, that has the most qualification, the most experience.”

What's hilarious, though, is Kurtz's sentence after the Lightner quote:

"If she (Lightner) is the only one to file, the 2010 election will be Nov. 2."

Um, actually, Chuck, even if 20 people file, the 2010 election will still be November 2.

Moving away from that awful writing, while there was nothing particularly unfair to Lightner herself in the above quotes/description (who we support at this blog), what is just completely untrue is that she is the only candidate actually running. As Lightner herself mentions by saying "I'm the one..that has the most qualifications, the most experience...", there are actually two other candidates in the race -- John Rysavy and Daniel Gilyeat, both of whom have been campainging for several weeks. No mention at all. Not only is that disrespectful to Gilyeat, a man who has served his country with absolute bravery, it is an outright disservice to the readers of the Sun by not providing them information about two candidates, who at this point, appear that they are definitely running.

What's even worse though, is, that the rest of the article then covers a bunch of candidates who are either out of the race or appear unlikely to get in the race. Depsite it's headline of "Several candidates still eyeing the race", from the Sun's own reporting, "several" seems to mean only two -- Kevin Yoder, who appears to be backing away from the race given his quotes, and Pat Colloton. Both Jeff Colyer and Nick Jordan said they are NOT candidates.

What's even more bizarre is that the article gives several large quotes to moderates Yoder and Colloton, despite the fact they are not in the race and may never be, while only providing one to Lightner, who is in the race and has been aggressively campaigning for weeks, including appearaces on radio interviews, the airing of radio ads, appearances in several campaigns, and other significant campaign activity. One would think that the readers would like to know more about the candidates actually running.

Not only that, it provides more freaking ink to Bob Vancrum than actual candidates in the race. No offense to Vancrum, a former State Senator from the early 1990's, but what exactly qualfiies him to be an expert on the 3rd District race in 2010? Well, let's look to the article. He's a "political observer". Huh? Who isn't?

Finally, what's even more ridiculous about the article is that it devoted quite a bit of time to two candidates who are NOT running -- Colyer and Jordan -- than the one potentially signficant figure that is currently actively recruiting "Facebook groupies" to draft her to run -- radio host Darla Jaye.

So, if you're keeping at score at home, this article, which was apparently meant to inform readers about the current status of the 3rd District race, did the following:

- One small quote to someone actually in the race -- Patricia Lightner.
- Several paragraphs and quotes to two candidates who say they are not running -- Jeff Colyer and Nick Jordan.
- Several quotes to a guy from the early 90's no one has ever heard of because he's a "political observer".
- Several paragraphs and quotes to two candidates who may run but aren't in the race yet, depsite 3 months of rumors -- Kevin Yoder and Pat Colloton, who both appear to moving away from running.
- Absolutely zero space to two candidates in the race -- John Rysavy and Daniel Gilyeat.
- Absolutely zero space to the one potential candidate actually visibly considering running -- Darla Jaye.

Way to inform your readers there, Chuck. Did the Johnson County Sun fire its editors? One would think someone there would notice the vast holes in the article. Oh, well.

Thankfully, there were a couple interesting things to gain from reading it, if you read closely:

- Liberals Pat Colloton, Kevin Yoder and conservatives Nick Jordan and Jeff Colyer all agree on one thing -- Dennis Moore is too liberal. What we found amazing,however, is that there is actually room to the left of Pat Colloton. Who knew?

- The article subtly echoes the point we made in our post from a couple days ago -- "Patricia Lightner vs. ?". While all the background chatter continues, while all the ghosts continue to spook each other out of the race, there is still just one major candidate out there actually talking to voters -- Patricia Lightner.

And those two points are the ones Sun readers may want to take away from the article most of all.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A great new resource: Kansas Watchdog

Kansans concerned about honest government and obtaining information that is hard to find elsewhere now have an outstanding new resource: Kansas Watchdog.

A simple trip to this site will explain what we mean: http://kansas.watchdog.org/

Well organized, well done, great information. First class all the way around.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Kaw & Border is now at www.kawandborder.net

Due to a mistake on our part, our old domain (www.kawandborder.com) was not renewed and has been purchased by someone out of the country. Though it still might bring up our old site, it is not the site we have access to. So, for all readers of this blog, please update your site links to www.kawandborder.net.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Bottom Falling out for Democrats

Over the last few weeks, we've occassionally covered the increasing evidence that 2010 is looking a lot like 1994. We've talked about the strong possiblity of Republican gains in the Govenrorships and the House, but how the U.S. Senate is a much tougher task simply because of the small amount of Democratic seats up when compared to Republican ones, and where those seats actually are.

However, over the past couple of weeks, more poll numbers are coming out which show that 2010 is looking like a huge political tidal wave that could very well reverse the results of the last couple of elections and could very well put the Republicans back in charge of the House, the majority of the Governorships a nd within striking distance of the Senate, an amazing occurence given the Democrats were, until Ted Kennedy's death last night, 60 seats.

Let's start off with what we know, starting off with the Governorships.

Currently, the Democrats hold a modest 27-23 margin in the Governorships.

In 2009, two seats in current blue states, Virginia and New Jersey, are likely to flip to the Republican column, with Bob McDonnell and Chris Christie winning, respectively -- in the latter case, defeating an incumbent. That would make it 25-25, an even tie.

In 2010, the Governorship picture is very bad for Democrats. Let's start off with the most likely Republican pickups:

Kansas -- Sam Brownback
Oklahoma - Mary Fallin
Tennessee -- Zack Wamp

Those three pickups would bring the Republican number to 28. In addition, these Democratic-held seats are increasingly vulnerable:

Wisconsin -- polls indicate Scott Walker is at least even if not ahead of Democratic candidates.
Colorado -- polls indicate Scott McInnis is ahead of the current governor, Bill Ritter.
Massaschuetts -- this state has elected Republican governors in the past and polls indicate that could happen again, with Deval Patrick only in the 30's. An Independent victory is also possible here.
Michigan -- where polls show the Republicans could easily win with several high profile candidates.
New Mexico -- where Republicans are within striking distance.
Ohio -- polls show John Kasich closing in fast on Governor Ted Strickland
New York -- polls show Rudy Guiliani would clobber David Patterson and would be quite competitive with Andrew Cuomo.
Iowa -- polls show former Governor Terry Branstad could defeat current Governor Terry Branstad

Other polls show that Illinois, Arkansas, and Maryland are also on the radar for Republicans if they find the right candidate.

Key for the Republicans is holding the fort in places like South Carolina, Rhode Island, and Hawaii.

However, even if they would lose in Hawaii and Rhode Island, there is a strong possiblity that a strong wave could carry the Republicans to around 30+ governors, a pick up of 7 and a dramatic increase in the ability to propose legislation. A major wave could get net them as many as 10 seats, if not more.

Next, let's take a look at the House. Recent articles by Charlie Cook show that even independent analysts say that the Republicans (who need to pick up 40 seats to get the House back) are likely to pick up at least 20, and republican leaders are making sounds that the House is within reach. The Republican recruitment efforts here are particularly strong. A good test will be if the 3rd District in Kansas gets on the radar...if it does, the Republicans will likely win Congress. If it's on the edge of the radar , it will be close. If it isn't, they will likely pick up 20-40 seats but not Congress.

The real news, however, lies in the U.S Senate races.

Here, the Republicans have no seats they are almost assuredly going to pick up, but there are several that are now on the radar as even to likely:

- Connecticut, where Chris Dodd is extremely unpopular and former Rep. Rob Simmons appears ready to win.
- Pennsylvania, where Arlen Specter is now trailing Pat Toomey.
- Illinois, where several Democratic candidates trail Mark Kirk.
- Nevada, where Harry Reid trails both Tarkanian and Sue Lowden.
- Colorado, where Michael Bennett is barely ahead or a little behind candidates who are not regarded as household names.
- Arkansas, where most experts previously considered safe, where new polls show Blanche Lincoln actually behind.
- Delaware, where Beau Biden is notdoing well in polls. The key here is finding a solid opponent.
- California, where polls show Boxer is hovering at 50% or below.
- New York, where polls show Pataki would beat Gilliland
- North Dakota, where polls show Gov Hoeven could win.

Now, folks, that's almost ALL the Democratic seats up -- that shows how difficult this is for the Republicans, yet they are almost ALL competitive. The only Republican seats under threat are in Missouri, Ohio, and New Hampshire where polls all show the Republican at least tied and any wave towards the GOP would probably save all three.

So, let's say the Republicans pick up NV, CT, PA, IL, CO, and AR. that alone would take the number of Democrats all the down to 54, and that's assuming they hold onto Massachsetts and the other states that are vulnerable.

Then in 2012, the Democrats have a ton of seats up and if Obama's numbers continue to sink, the Democrats could end up losing the Senate.

Moral of this story? The Republicans could easily see a wave like 1994, will easily capture the nation's governorships, could very well win the House, and the only thing preventing them from evening upt he Senate (even down 10 seats right now) is the fact there are only 10 seats available!

How quickly politics can change.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Steve Rose lets voters know who he's afraid of in the 3rd District

Well, our old buddy Steve Rose is at it again. Johnson County's self-appointed king of high-minded moderates has let his dwindling collection of readers know his initial thoughts on the 3rd District Congressional race. Just today, mailboxes across the county were filled with his weekly "Memo" entitled "It's Too Early to Write This".

As we have discussed in the past, this "Memo" is right out of the Steve Rose Column Playbook. Basically, it's the same column he keeps in a template on his computer and always writes when he pontificates about politics:

The "memos" are always based on one solid underlining point -- in this case, as Rose puts it, "Dennis Moore may be vulnerable, perhaps like he has not been in many years. Twice before, Moore won by only about a percent." Rose goes on to point out the fact Moore's record is full of liberalism -- voting for Cap and Trade, voting for Card Check, and plans to vote for the health care bill.

From there, like usual, Rose turns into a blowhard. He never seems to be able to resist diving into a mess of empty analysis that is often devoid of facts and contradictory to other points he makes in his own column. He also, without fail, always takes a shot at a conservative -- in this case, former State Representative Patricia Lightner. By the end, it's clear that either Rose is either playing dumb and putting out a silly, useless, and false information on purpose -- or he's in serious need of a political science class. Sometimes, however, he through his "protesting too much", reveals a window into his real thinking.

In this particular Memo, Rose's facts are so far off that he's actually spreading falsehoods within other falsehoods, which makes it particularly difficult to dissect, but we'll do our best.

Let's start with the fact-deficient empty analysis. In blasting Patricia Lightner as a "hard right conservative" (which we'll get to in a moment), he says that she "would be another cakewalk for Moore. He would be thrilled if she got the Republican nomination, given his record of trouncing right-wing candidates."

Hey, Steve, do you even read the column you are writing? Just a few sentences later into the same editorial, you make the point that Moore has won by 1% twice. Did you forget that one of those narrow victories was against Phill Kline, who is probably the most "far right" candidate we've ever run for Congress, whom you have spent quite a bit of ink blasting over the past two decades? The only "far right" (using Steve's words) candidate was Kris Kobach, who got 44% and nearly won Johnson County!

Then later in the same piece, he praises both Kevin Yoder and Steve Reintjes, inferring both would are affable, respected, and as Rose puts it, would "straddle the lines between moderates and conservatives". While both are good men, what Rose is inferring here is both are essentially similar candidates in philosophical profile and approach to Nick Jordan -- who was largely regarded by experts such as Mr. Rose and others in the establishment as the best candidate the Republicans had ever fielded, so much that he avoided a primary.

Problem is, unlike the far right Phill Kline, who barely lost to Moore district-wide and won Johnson County, Nick Jordan didn't get close. Unlike the so-called "far right" Kris Kobach, who got 43% and almost won Johnson County (losing by 6,000 votes, 50-48%), Nick Jordan didn't even get in the ballpark. To use Steve Rose's own words, the affable, likeable, line-straddling, pro-life yet not-far right Nick Jordan...got "trounced", not even cracking 40% of the vote District wide, and only earning 44% in Johnson County.

So much for that analysis.

What's funny in this is that in his description of both Patricia and the other two potential candidates he mentions -- Yoder and Reintjes -- he again misses the facts.

First of all, though indeed a strong conservative, one would be hard to find a person outside of the most liberal who would describe Patricia Lightner as "hard right". If anything, she has a record and reputation of yes, a conservative voting record, but one of independence as well. One need go no further back than 2004, when she ran in the Congressional primary against the "far right" Kobach. One need only take Politics 101 to realize that didn't exactly make most conservatives happy at the time. While her views are indeed socially and fiscally conservative, Rose has nothing really to base his "far right" tag other than the fact she's not part of his establishment-clan and that represents a threat to Rose and his country club ilk.

Second of all, what's also funny is his description of Yoder as somehow well to the left of Lightner. This might have been true 7 years ago. But, in the last couple of sessions, Yoder has consistently voted with House conservatives on both fiscal and social issues. While he's not with them on everything, the fact is his record is not all that different from Lightner's when she was in the House,. So, while his analysis that Yoder is respected by both moderates and conservatives is true, his record is pretty conservative, particularly lately.

Finally, in describing Steve Reintjes,he praises him as being Catholic, failing to mention that Lightner is also Catholic. Whoops, someone might want to call the Publisher to correct this oversight. Oh wait, Steve Rose IS the Publisher. Rose also refers to Reintjes as being "extremely affable". What the heck does this mean? Was Nick Jordan just affable and now Reintjes is "extremely affable"?

Of course, despite this odd, fact-lacking, empty analysis, Steve Rose's central point is this -- he claims Moore would "trounce" the "far right" Patricia Lightner because Moore has a history of trouncing right-wing candidates, despite the fact Kline got the closest to beating Moore and Kobach almost won Johnson County -- and then he goes on to promote two candidates who he believes would be a serious threat to Moore because they are, in his opinion via his description, are in the mold of Nick Jordan, despite the fact he wasn't even close to the numbers Kline and even Kobach got.

Steve Rose is one of the three:

- Politically clueless and bad at math.
- Seriously must believe that his readers are so loyal that they won't check the facts.
- Has an ulterior motive.

or

- All of the Above.

We're opting for Option 4 -- he doesn't understand politics nor political history, but also has an ulterior motive he knows most of his readers won't realize.

So what is that ulterior motive?

In our opinion, Steve Rose has done his classic "protesting too much" as he often does. By labeling Patricia Lightner, a candidate who has been out for about two weeks, a candidate who "can't win" because she's "far right", Rose has clearly let us know who he, a liberal, is most afraid of politically -- who he knows represents the biggest threat, so he is trying to undermine and destroy her before she gets out of the gate. And that person is Patricia Lightner.

In short, Steve Rose is saying this:

"Patricia Lightner is an attractive, aggressive, experienced, pro-life, economically conservative candidate who is already out campaigning everywhere, has a compelling web video, and has a real shot of tapping into the grassroots tea party and town hall movement that is captivating the nation and is the reason why Moore may be vulnerable in the first place -- but because she's not part of my little club, isn't in someone's back pocket, and isn't in politics just to get along -- she's a threat to my power base and therefore, I'm going to call her "far right" to scare away voters who might find her message, background, and personality appealing in these times."

In short, Steve Rose is afraid of aggressive candidates who promote economic and social conservatism.

In short, Steve Rose is afraid of anyone who doesn't go to the same parties he goes to.

In short, Steve Rose knows she can win.

In short, Steve Rose is afraid of Patricia Lightner.

And in our view, that's a huge reason to SUPPORT Patricia Lightner.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Real Jim Barnett Steps Forward

In past posts, we at Kaw & Border have discussed various aspects of the Kansas Senate and how the makeup of the current body defies any notion that the legislature is a conservative one For years, the Kansas Senate has been an immense source of frustration for conservatives for the simple fact it's hard to get any good legislation out of there without some parliamentary maneuver or heavy political pressure on a particular issue.

We've also discussed past and current political races, including the one currently being held in the First Congressional District, currently held by Jerry Moran, who is running for the U.S. Senate. Due to the heavy Republican nature of this district, six candidates are in the race, and the one we at Kaw & Border favor is the only true, proven conservative -- Tim Huelskamp.

However, our focus today will be once again on Jim Barnett, who has proven himself to be nothing more than a political animal, willing to change shades depending on the election cycle and the path needed to victory. We've explained how in 2006, Barnett all of a sudden became a conservative to run for Governor, despite liberal leanings in the past. Then, in 2007 and most of 2008, he drifted back to the liberal side, once again voting for bloated budgets, big government, and rarely standing up against Senate leadership. In fact, along with Julia Lynn, it was his vote that prevented conservatives from taking back control of the Senate in the leadership elections leading up to the 2009 session. Towards the end of the session, his votes tended to be more conservative again, because now he's decided to run for Congress.

But, in the past few weeks, more revolations have come to light that clearly identify Jim Barnett as the liberal Republican, big government-embracing, nanny state, vote-trader he is. First of all, a simple search on YouTube will find a video that dissects Barnett's liberal past and his ties to Sebelius on the issue of health care.

Now, he's recently had a fundraiser in which the returned favor for his vote for leadership came to light...they are backing him for Congress. Check out the names on the invite:


Steve Morris. Derek Schmidt. John Vratil. The three-headed monster of Republican RINO's in the Kansas Senate -- and they are collectively throwing their support behind Jim Barnett in his effort to make the 1st District represented by a big government Republican.

Yeah, that's just what our country needs right now from one of the safest Republican seats in the country! Rather than elect an authentic conservative like Tim Huelskamp, let's send up a failed former candidate for Governor, who was embarassed by Sebelius, to go up to Washington to now work with Sebelius and vote like her on health care! GREAT IDEA!
Aren't you glad we have such real principled Republican leadership in the State Senate?

If you're a reader of this blog and you actually want a real conservative representing The Big First, who as we posted in the past, will actually bring a big bat to Washington and promote convervatism...then you need to do everything you can to help out Tim Huelskamp and do everything you can to stop Jim Barnett.

Let's send Tim Huelskamp to Congress, and let's keep Jim Barnett in the State Senate, where he can be relegated to proposing his infamous nanny state bills on everything from seat belts to smoking bans.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

New Jersey, Virginia Going GOP in 2009

First of all, we wanted to mention that Kaw & Border will continue to focus on local politics but also start to provide information about races in other parts of the country, particularly as they relate to a Republican/conservative surge.

As part of that, here are two polls that highlight just how strong the Republican momentum is and how unhappy people are with the current Democratic trend. In both New Jersey and Virginia, both of which voted for Obama, Republicans are virtually assured of winning the Governorships:

New Jersey (Monmouth Poll)
Chris Christie (R) -- 50%
Jon Corzine (D) -- 36%

Virginia (PPP)
Bob McDonnell (R) -- 51%
Creigh Deeds (D) -- 37%

These are huge margins and they're going the wrong direction for the Democrats. With only 3 months until elections, barring some major change, these two Governorships are "signed, sealed, and delivered."

In short: R+2

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Win in 2010: Standing up on Principle

Anyone following national news lately has noticed that Barack Obama is becoming more and more unpopular. For well over a week, Obama's approval ratings had dropped signifcantly. In Rasmussen, not only was his "passion" rating (those strongly approving - those dissaproving) all the way down to -12, but his overall number had fallen below 50. Though over the weekend (likely due to the coverage of the "beer summit") that number reversed itself to 51-48, his numbers are still quite low given the media adoration of him, particularly at this early point in his presidency.

Not only that, Republicans continue to lead in generic Congressional balloting, usually by a margin of 43-39. Democratic Senators and Members of Congress are being met with boos and taunts and laughs. Plus, in individual races across the country, Republican candidates in specific races are faring quite well. In two huge races for governor in 2009, for example -- Virginia and New Jersey -- states that voted for Obama -- the Republican candidates are clearly headed for resounding victories in states that have often been strong indicators of the next year's election. Two examples of this were in 2005, when Democrats won in both states, forseeing a Democratic takeover in 2006, and in 1993, when Republicans won in both states, forseeing a Republican takeover in 1994.

So, the signs are there. Republicans are doing a good job in recruiting for the House. Republicans are likely to pick up several governorships, including here in Kansas. More and more Senate seats -- including in blue states like Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Illinois -- appear more and more primed for Republican takeovers. If Republicans can hold seats in Missouri and Ohio (increasingly likely based on recent poll numbers, and given that both states are relatively conservative) AND recruit candidates in Colorado, Delaware, and Nevada, Republicans could very well fight back to around 45 Senators for the last two years of Obama's term, which would be huge given the fact that 2012 brings a number of Democrats up for re-election. (One downside of going from 45 to 60 seats in two cycles is that more of your seats are up in four and six years!). In short, the political road map is there for Republicans to make gains.

However, there is some concern on the part of this blog that Republicans won't seize the moment. That they will be all too tempted to rely on Obama's sinking popularity and not rally around a positive conservative message built on sound conservative principles. There will also be a temptation to recruit candidates who will be seen as unifying and moderate who run media-driven consultant-ran campaigns, rather than insurgent grassroots campaign that builds upon the very potent combination of patriotism and anger that has driven so many people to participate in tea parties and town meetings.

If Republicans try to be "Obama lite" or "less liberal" or "moderate" or "unifying", they will only gain seats at the edges and will not actually pick up any REAL support, but rather their gains will be solely dependent on Obama's popularity, which could very well flip back as Obama gets on the campaign trail. Let's not forget 1994 when Clinton was extremely unpopular but two years later was re-elected in a landslide. Furthermore, Republican campaigns who fall for the trap of moderate and unifying won't bring in the activists that have been so active and eager to get involved, and thus will be failing at the opportunity to turn the next 2-4 years into a revolution rather than just another election cycle. Not to mention, any gains we do have will be meangingless, because many of those elected will not be real Republicans, but rather more people like Arlen Specter and Olympia Snowe.

Opportunity is the key word here too -- not just for poltiical gains, but for educating open-minded Americans on the wisdom of conservatie policies. As Obama's hard-left policies continue to fail miserably, Americans will still be looking for effective solutions to the very real problems in various areas of concern.

- Rather than looking to the government to improve health care, they will be more open to hearing about reform that emphasizes the individual and competition.

- Rather than belieiving that the government spending trillions of dollars is the way to prosperity, they will be open to policies that reduce the tax burden on businesses and individuals.

- Realizing that a big government only creates more problems, Americans will be more open to policies which reduce the size of government and also prevent future growth.

- Realizing that liberals desire a state that promotes a culture of death at both the beginning and end of life, Americans will have renewed interest in policies that promote a culture of life.

- Understanding that coddling dictators doesn't work, Americans will look for a President who actually fights the war on terror, promotes freedom, and treats terrorists like terrorists, evil regimes like evil regimes, and believes that the defense department is the one part of goverment we actually want to be big.

The list goes on and on. The question is whether the Republican party will have the courage to stand up on conservative principles that have not only led to successful policies, but success at the ballot box as well.

Our concern is while individual candidates in specific districts may promote conservative ideals, that too often in too many districts national Republican leaders, consultants, and media experts will advise candidates to "campaign to their districts or states" and avoid a conservative theme. They will look to latch on to some magical issue in a particular district to carry them to victory, rather than a set of conservative principles from which specific positions on issues derive from.

The fact is, though yes, in a sense, all politics is local, even off-year elections are national as well. It is national trends and national themes which swing large numbers of House or Senate seats from "not competitive" to "competitive". It is up to national leaders, then, to convey such themes when both recruiting and advising candidates, to switch those seats from merely competitive to actual victories.

Here in Kansas, the 3rd District is a perfect example of such a seat. Dominated by Republican voters, the 3rd District has been held by Dennis Moore for 12 years, and has been regarded as safe as any Democratic seat in the nation since 2004. While many still consider Moore safe, his votes and stances on everything from card check to cap and tax to health care to Gitmo prisoners is starting to give many people the idea that perhaps there is an opening in 2010 for the right candidate.

Unfortunately, due to the nature of the Republican split and the relative political diversity of the 3rd District (from the liberal Wyandotte to the conservative Olathe to the moderate NE/Central JoCo), many will advocate for a candidate who will be "unifying" and adopt for traditional campaign strategies. They will also be tempted to recruit a candidate who has money and who can hopefully buy the race. That, much like it didn't work in 2008 with Nick Jordan, who was liked by both conservative and moderate insiders and had over 1 millioin dollars, won't work again in 2010.

Winning will require four things:

1. Yes, a little money -- as any race requires that.
2. A new, fresh candidate -- preferably a pro-life woman.
3. A strong, conservative, unapologetic message.
4. A grassroots style campaign that involves hitting every possible door in the 3rd district at least once with the candidate or a supporter of that candidate.

It will not be won through glossy mailers which are thrown away, TV ads that are never seen due to DVR's, trying to appeal to every possible viewpoint, or via high priced consultants that offer bad advice.

It will be won through talking to each voter on each doorstep with real ideas and real principles and real facts and a real candidate who brings a new voice to the race. That is the only way you can defeat a 6 term incumbent Congressman.

Simply put, whether it is in our back yard here in Johnson County or in any other district in the country, the only way to true victory -- and to a true movement or revolution that can alter the political and ideological landscape of the country -- is to campaign on conservative principles and to do so through grassroots style campaigns that touch voters on their doorsteps so people have a connection not only with the candidate but with their ideas and values.

Here is hoping that in the next several months, Republicans both in the 3rd District and nationally realize that message and manpower can beat money and mush.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

What if Conservatives Had Control?

Today, the big national political news is the development that the Minnesota Senate Race is finally resolved. It's official now -- Liberal Democrat Al Franken is now going to be the junior United States Senator from Minnesota -- winning the battle in the Minnesota Supreme Court over Norm Coleman. Though it is unquestionable that the election was stolen, the reality is now that it hands the Democrats a virtual 60-seat majority, when you consider that both of the body's independents -- Joe Lieberman and Bernie Sanders (who is an avowed socialist, unlike his colleagues, who are closet socialiasts) -- both caucus with the Democrats.

What this means is that aside from a narrow 5-4 center-right majority on the Supreme Court (highlighted by the 5-4 majority in the New Haven firefighters case on Monday), there is absolutely no check on the liberal power in Washington. Obama was the most liberal member of the U.S. Senate, and is now President. Biden was one of the more liberal members of the Senate, and is now Vice President. Nancy Pelosi is a San Francisco liberal and is Speaker and all but about 30 members of the Democratic Caucus come from the liberal wing of the party Harry Reid, aside from a couple of Nevada-specific issues, is a liberal and is Majority Leader of the Senate. Out of the 60 Senators that are Democrats, the vast majority are from the liberal wing of the party. Only a few -- Lieberman, Nelson of Nebraska, Landrieu, Pryor, Dorgan, Conrad, Bayh, and Lincoln -- could be considered moderate Democrats in any sense of the word, and most of them vote quite liberally on most issues.

Last week, a poll from Gallup indicated that only 20% of the nation considered themselves liberal. 40% were conservative, 35% moderate, and the rest undecided. So, we essentially have a situation where elected officials who come from the 20% liberal faction of the country have been given absolute power. Aside from that small check (when Kennedy votes "right") on the Supreme Court, there is absolutely nothing to slow liberal policies down aside from the possibility of outrage of the American public generating enough political fear among members of Congress that it causes them to lessen the effect of some of what they're trying to impelement.

Absolute-power scenarios rarely come in American politics. In the 1990's, under Clinton, the Republicans had control of Congress and slowed down much of what he wanted. Even in the 1993-94 period when he had a Democratic Congress, the majority in the Senate was not as large as they have now, and there were a lot more conservative Democrats then -- Richard Shelby, of Alabama, for instance -- now a conservative Republican -- was actually a Democrat at that time. In the early part of this decade, when Republicans had control, they didn't have a large enough margin in the Senate to stop filibusters, and the moderates had enough seats in the Senate that conservatives actually only had about 45-49 seats, not enough to pass things, let alone stop Democrat stalling tactics.

As a result of this rare power, liberals are trying to push through a number of far-left initiatives while they can. Cap and Tax and Government Health Care, which could ONLY be enacted under this current liberal control, are the two biggest examples that could represent a fundamental change in how this government does business -- simply becuase they would be so hard to undo. Other items -- such as undoing the Defense of Marriage Act, abortion-on-demand, etc -- are coming down the pike as well. Not to mention liberal judges, uncountable "special czars", a liberal foreign policy, and other things that are the result of Obama's direction.

All this led this blog to think what if we were operating in an alternative political universe that was exactly the opposite of what we had now? What if the conservative Senator was elected President, and conservatives controlled the Senate with 60 seats, and just 3-4 moderate Republicans? What policies would be implemented? What would be the long term effect on the country?

Imagine this -- imagine if Congressman Paul Ryan (albeit a Congressman at the moment, not a Senator), who many see as a rising star, became President? What if the Arlen Specters and Charlie Crists of the world were unseated by the Pat Toomeys and and Marco Rubios of the world? what if Steve King took the place of Tom Harkin, and Michele Bachmann took the place of Al Franken? What then?

Here are a few thoughts:

- The United States would continue the policies of George W. Bush overseas. We'd resume calling the war the "War on Terror", and we'd take the battle directly to the terrorists. We'd stand behind freedom fighters in Iran and stop upholding dictators in Honduras. We'd do more than send a ship chasing around the North Korean vessel, and threathen North Korea with annihliation if they dared attack Hawaii or South Korea. We'd win the war in Iraq and Afgahnistan, and actually increase spending on the military. We'd stop the closing process at Gitmo and call back the terrorists from Palau. We'd resume real military tribunals and stop the notion of terrorists having hearings in U.S. courts.

- When Souter, Ginsburg, and Stevens moved on, we'd appoint people like Janice Rogers Brown, Diane Sykes and Edith Jones to the United States Supreme Court. We'd then have a court which would uphold the rights of the President to fight foreign wars, including the terrorists. Roe V. Wade would be overturned, ending the notion that the right to kill a baby is protected in the Constitution. McCain-Feingold would be ruled unconstitutional, and freedom of speech would return. The Second Amendment would be upheld, not only in DC but nationwide. The Tenth Amendment would be upheld and power would be returned to the states. Eminent Domain would again be illegal under the Constitution.

- Rather than adopting Government Health Care, we'd be on the road towards a true free market in health care, where consumers had control rather than insurance companies, places of employment, or the government. Choice would expand, competitiveness would increase, and costs would drop. The quality of care would increase. Individuals would have control over their own health care, and the only government involvement would be basic safeguards such as portability, preexisting condition coverage, and basic emergency room care.

- Rather than adopting the Cap and Tax program, we'd have a real energy policy which pursued a multi-pronged strategy of dealing with our energy needs. While wind and solar would be welcomed, we'd actually drill for oil whereever it could be found, including offshore and on the north slope of Alaska. We'd pursue reasonable environmentally "green" friendly ideals without adopting policies that relied on junk science. We'd recognize that temperatures are actually dropping, not increasing, and stop the arrogant belief that man actually can have the kind of impact on the environment that liberals think it can have -- either positively or negatively. We'd end the trend towards government telling people how to live and what to buy and how much energy to consume -- but rather, we'd promote nuclear energy, clean coal technology, and other altnerative energy sources instead. As a result, gas prices would plummet back well under $2, home energy costs would drop, the price of an airline ticket would drop, and therefore, humans would travel more, spend more money, and the economy would get a boost.

- Rather than a massive expansion of government, we'd see budget reform implemented. Zero-based budgeting would be adopted, where every program, each year, started with 0 dollars and had to justify every dime it would receive from the government. Over time, the budget deficit would go away and we'd begin to pay off our debt. The effect of this would be to create more money for government to return tax dollars to the people and perform tasks that government was created to do -- the military, highways, etc.

- Massive government bailouts would cease. Banks, car companies, and any other big business would be allowed to fail. The President would no longer meddle in the affairs of private business. American capitalism and opportunism would then take hold, and over time, within a few years, the voids created by companies folding would be met by new companies with better products and services.

- Entitlements would be reformed or reduced. While present-day seniors would be protected, Social Security would be reformed long term so younger people could opt out of the system and instead, keep their own money to build their own retirement account or, do things like, buy a house or pay off debt. The result would be the payroll tax -- a regressive tax that hurts low income people as well as small business owners, particularly the self employed -- would be gradually phased out, meaning that people making about $30,000 or less -- and couples making about $50,000 or less, would only pay a small income tax and therefore be able to save and invest and protect their families and businesses into the future.

- The tax code would be replaced by a simple tax such as the Fair Tax or a Flat Tax, which would be capped constitutionally. The only time we'd increase taxes is in the case of a war. This would put accountants out of business, but reduce costs dramatically for businesses, individuals, and promote the free market economy.

- Regulations would be reduced or eliminated except where to promote safet, protect consumers and investors, and where it was necessary to encourage competition. Rather than overregulation, fraud would be discouraged by harsh penalties and protection for whistleblowers.

- A Constitutional Amendment would be passed that would outlaw gay marriage, or at the very least, prevent the Full Faith and Credit Clause from applying to gay marriage.

- Embryonic Stem Cell Research and Human Cloning would not only be defunded, it would be banned period.

- Abortion would either be returned to the states, or, perhaps, a Human Life Amendment would be given to the states, recognnizing unborn children as having equal protection under federal law.

- Education policy would be returned to the states, and free market economics and competition would be promoted where possible. Vouchers and other forms of school choice would be encouraged and promoted -- not just in DC but elsewhere, implemented by states. Rather than huge federal mandates, the only federal involvement would be student loans in certain cases, or other policies which would encourage more choice in education. The focus would be on the education of children rather than the promotion of unions and a narrow agenda.

- Speaking of unions, card check would be a thing of the past and unions would be limited in their power, returning to their intended state of simply protecting the worker. People would be free to work and union membership would be deemphasized.

- Government involvement in business would be limited. Rather than being a stifling effect through taxation, regulation, and such, government would only serve as a help to promote enterpreneuers through small business loans and enterprise zones to encourage development. Rather than bulldozing towns such as Obama wants to do in Flint, Michigan, we'd pursue policies which reduced the tax burden to zero to give the American Spirit a chance to work in areas that people previously thought were hopeless.

- Churches would have their freedom of speech restored, and be free to participate in political efforts, as the tax penalties for churches speaking about candidates would be taken away.

- We'd have a national discussion about faith and family, and restoring basic moral values and absolutes, rather than the continued progression towards moral relativism, where family means anything and faith means nothing. People would be encouraged to pray in school, pray at the workplace, and talk about their faith openly. God and Jesus would be welcomed, not shunned, while other faiths would still be respected in the tradition of America.

This is a long list but is a broad one. The list would be longer if conservatives were elected nationwide at the state and local level as well. But, that's another post.

For conservatives currently fighting the good fight on blogs, in campaigns, and in non profit organiztaions and tea parties, this is the kind of nation we are fighting for. While this may seem far away right now, and indeed it is, the fact is that conservatives out number liberals 2-1 in this country, and if approached with reason, facts, and kindness, many of the moderates will side with conservatives.

The problem is, we've never had a large enough collection of leaders who not only preach this message, but act on it. Everytime we've had power -- we've largely blown it. When we've had it and used it well -- such as with Reagan and tax cuts and fighting Communism, or Bush with the terrorists and promoting freedom -- the country embraces conservatives. It is when we fall for the lie that liberalism is the way to go or that compromising principles is the same as governing that we fail.

The good news is that in difficulty comes opportunity. There are leaders on the horizon that are well poised to be the generals in a new conservative army. We have Fox News. On the radio, we have Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Gleen Beck, Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity, Fred Thompson, and others. In Kansas, we have people like Sam Brownback, Todd Tiahrt, Jerry Moran, Tim Huelskamp, Mary Pilcher Cook, Jeff Colyer, Anthony Brown, Kris Kobach, Lance Kinzer, Ty Masterson, Kasha Kelley, and others. In other states, we have people like Sarah Palin, Bobby Jindal, Haley Barbour, Paul Ryan, Mike Pence, John Thune, and others. We have candidates on the horizon as well, such as Michael Williams and Eliazabeth Ames Jones in Texas; Pat Toomey, in Pennsylvania; Marco Rubio in Florida.

Of course, there are many questions still be to be answered. Will these conservative candidates and public figures be unfraid to not only run on conservative ideas, but actually act on them, and attempt to convince voters that these policies are right? Rather than "voting for their district", will conservative elected officials in tough districts actually vote their conscience and then convince their electorate why they are right? Will supposedly national conservative leaders (like John Cornyn and Mitch McConnell) endorse principled conservatives like Marco Rubio rather than backing perceived "popular" people like liberal Charlie Crist? Will these leaders actually recruit conservative candidates and promote a conservative platform, so the term "Republican" actually means something besides a mere party label? Will conservative candidates have the courage to run, and create more boats in the rising tide of American conservatism? Will conservative activists have the courage to say no to liberal tactics, and get online on places like Facebook and Twitter, and fight the liberal lies? Will the Tea Party particpants actually get involved with and donate to conservative campaigns and run for office themselves?

All of these questions -- and more -- remain to be answered. The conservative movement depends on it. The ability of conservatives to achieve governing numbers like liberals have now depends on it. The future of Kansas depends on it.

Indeed, the nation's future depends on it.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Saying NO to RINO's

Perhaps as much as anywhere in the country, the infamous "split" within the Republican Party has always been quite pronounced in Kansas, particularly in Johnson County. Despite years and years of trying, particualrly by conservatives, there has been little to no ground made up in terms of unifying the so-called "conservative" wing with the so-called "moderate" wing of the party.

There is a reason for this. The reason is because in most cases, the so-called "moderate" Republicans are not really Republicans -- they are what has come to be known as Republicans In Name Only -- meaning that if they were in a Democratic area they'd be Democrats, but because Kansas is a red state, they have to remain with the Republican label if they have any real hope of getting elected. The truth is, they are actually as liberal as Democrats, thus making any attempt at "unifying" with conservatives completely meaningless for the basic fact there is very little -- socially, fiscally, or otherwise -- that they can agree on.

As evidence of this, over the years, some of these "moderates" have included people who are now Democrats -- including Cindy Neighbor, Lisa Benlon, Ron Wimmer, Mark Parkinson, Paul Morrison, etc. Each of these figures was once a moderate Republican hero, touted as someone the party could rally behind as some kind of moderate voice -- when in fact, in each case, there was nothing moderate about them.

And therein lies the main part of the problem -- the term "moderate" has been abused and redefined as a word for liberals to hide behind in an attempt to conceal their real liberalism and in an effort to woo voters -- who are likely more conservative than they are on the issues but moderate in "appraoch" -- by appearing reasonable when compared to those right-wing radical Republicans who want to end all taxes and stop public education. At least, that's the standard RINO talking point.

In our eyes, the real definition of a "moderate" Republican is someone who is perhaps not as conservative on one or two issues, or perhaps not as "aggressive" in tone, but in large part, agrees with the fundamental tenants of Republicanism. For example, Bob Dole's voting record was quite conservative but many considered him to be a moderate voice. Bob Dole is a moderate Republican. Looking more nationally, someone like Kay Bailey Hutchinson of Texas is a moderate Republican -- as she is largely conservative but takes a slightly more liberal position on a couple issues -- but is unquestionably part of the Republican fold. Looking locally, Lynn Jenkins is a moderate Republican.

That's far different from a RINO. And it is our belief that the party not only needs to stop trying to unify with RINO's but actively oppose them. This is due to the fact one, these people are destructive legislatively. Two, the party wastes too much time trying to cater to these people. Third, the cconservative message gets watered down and looks too inconsistent when we're always trying to bend over backwards for some RINO who we're never going to agree with.

All of this is to say that the voters are looking for a new message they can rally behind -- a consistent conservative message on both fiscal and social issues. That won't ever come when one is worrying about pleasing the Arlen Specters of the world.

Case in point -- the 8 Republicans who on Friday voted in favor of the cap-and-tax bill are RINO's. No ifs, ands or buts about it. There is absolutely nothing consistent about being a Republican and voting for that bill. These people can absolutely be blamed for the passage of this bill, and in our view, should be treated just like Democrats -- meaning every single last one of them should draw a primary, because they are for all intents and purposes absolutely useless.

Here in Kansas, the same could be told for several members of the Johnson County delegation. The fact is, out of the 16 Republicans who we send to Topeka, up to six of them are never reliable for a vote on anything remotely conservative. As we covered earlier this year, it is these "moderates" that gave the state of Kansas yet another terrible budget despite all the economic signs pointing to the fact that more needed to be done.

One would think that such a dismal fiscal situation for the state would mean a "moderate" would actually moderATE and move away from the liberal spend-spend-spend dogma and vote conservative for once. But, see, as we said earlier -- they aren't moderates and they're not Republicans -- they're liberals, in almost every case.

Now, does this mean that there should be some litmus test on every issue? No. We favor a big tent here at Kaw & Border, but to us a Big Tent means tolerance for a different view on one or two issues. It does not mean being so big that a completely different political philosophy should be welcomed.

What we're advocating here is that conservatives and the Republican Party in general, particularly in this current state where Obama and company are driving every bad piece of legislation down our throats, recruit authentic conservative candidates who are committed to the party's principles. That doesn't mean they have to agree on every issue, but it does mean they hold a similar core philosophy.

Politically speaking, this means saying NO to RINO's. Not no to moderates -- but no to RINOs. This means, in primaries, recruiting conservative candidates against any RINO. Will everyone win? No. But as Newt Gingrich said the other day, a Rising Tide only can occur with enough boats in the water. Simply put, conservatives need to find boats in the water, and if they give them these candidates the support they need.

This all gets back to a fundamental point that too often, those who simply are involved in politics FOR the politics forget -- and that is that it's not just about wins and losses or about having an R or a D by your name. If the Republican Party is going to be successful, it can longer simply be a label for a candidate that vaguely means something to the right of the Democrats. The term "Republican" must mean something -- a set of core principles and values for which its candidates and officers will stive to uphold.

If conservatives and real Republicans do this, they will no longer be dependent upon the public's negative reaction to a Democratic line of mistakes -- but also proactive in giving the voting public something to vote for and be excited about. This will not only help Republicans get elected and stay elected, it will mean great things for the future of the state of Kansas and the nation as a whole.