To those who say politics is boring, I say: Let them come to Kansas.
We were supposed to get snoozer campaigns in this reddest of states this year. Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts were shoo-ins for re-election, we thought.
Recent polls have put the lie to that notion. Both candidates expected victory laps. Both are getting obstacle courses.
The first major hurdle comes Saturday in debates at the Kansas State Fair in Hutchinson. (The Libertarian candidates haven’t met the organizers’ threshold for participation and won’t be on stage.)
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Democratic governor hopeful Paul Davis and Senate candidate Greg Orman, an independent, will have an important chance to fully introduce themselves to the electorate. Brownback and Roberts get an opportunity to reset their campaigns, perhaps stalling the momentum of their opponents that seems to have damaged their efforts this summer.
Stunningly, Democrat Chad Taylor pulled out of the Senate race Wednesday. The decision upends that contest and makes the Kansas outcome even more important on a national scale.
So the debates are important. As always, though, they’ll be judged on a sliding scale. Did the candidate do better than expected, or worse? Forget the issues — it’s all about expectations, and avoiding any gaffes.
Here’s a look, with tongue firmly in cheek, at the performance expectations heading into the debates. The key: BTE = better than expected. WTE = worse.
The governor’s debate:
Sam Brownback, BTE: Offers actual shot of adrenaline for every Kansan in order to boost state economy.
WTE: Friend and tax-cut guru Arthur Laffer holds post-debate news conference.
Paul Davis, BTE: At least half of crowd recognizes him by sight.
WTE: Davis selfie taken at the Obamacare sign-up table goes viral.
Keen Umbehr, BTE: Libertarian barred from the debate, but Rand Paul offers post-event endorsement anyway.
WTE: Ron Paul offers endorsement.
The Senate debate:
Sen. Pat Roberts, BTE: Campaign wins prize when midway barker guesses Roberts is 58.
WTE: Arrives late, tells crowd he was lost because he hasn’t traveled through Kansas recently.
Greg Orman, BTE: Democrats remain stunned by Taylor’s decision to quit.
WTE: Republicans insist Taylor reconsider.
Randall Batson, BTE: Libertarian also barred from debate, but picks up Milton Wolf endorsement.
WTE: Picks up Ron Paul endorsement.
See you at the fair.