Let’s run down some of the highlights, and lowlights, of Campaign 2014 before the hustle of 2016 overwhelms all of us.
And yes, folks, Campaign 2016 is already churning.
▪ Everybody is wondering how the Kansas polls got it so wrong. Heading into Election Day, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Paul Davis appeared to have forged a 3-point lead. Independent Senate contender Greg Orman was up by a point.
Both got beat — Davis by 4 percentage points, Orman by 10.
“Really remarkable,” said Washburn University political scientist Bob Beatty.
Theories abound: Democrats were oversampled. Social conservatives declined to be polled.
But University of Kansas political scientist Patrick Miller may have the best explanation. There was an Election Day change of heart, he said. Fewer Republicans wound up defecting to Orman and Davis. They got cold feet and stayed loyal. Maybe the anti-Barack Obama sentiment swayed them more than frustration with their own party members.
It’s also possible that potential defectors wound up not voting, Miller said. It’s tough for surveys to capture all this psychological shifting.
Maybe the polls weren’t wrong after all.
▪ Give Kansas Republicans credit for a well-oiled get-out-the-vote machine. Gov. Sam Brownback said more than a million phone calls were made. A million! Four phone banks were in near-constant operation. The party went so far as to hire professional door knockers, including home-school kids from an organization called Generation Joshua, to contact voters.
▪ Kansas Democrats now get why Vice President Joe Biden has a reputation for talking without thinking. On Election Day, Biden gave a radio interview in which he declared that Orman would be “one of us” if elected.
The comment went viral as voters headed to the polls and threatened to undermine Orman’s claim that he truly was independent.
▪ Frustrated Kansas Democrats are consoling themselves with one reality: Brownback now owns his supply-side economic “experiment.” He’s got four years to make it work. If it doesn’t, a key component of GOP dogma gets wiped out. And maybe so will the Republicans.
▪ Old conventional wisdom: Kansans steer clear from controversial candidates.
New CW: They like fighters. How else can you explain the nearly 60 percent of the vote that Secretary of State Kris Kobach landed?
Look for him on a ballot for governor or U.S. Senate.
▪ The lesson of 2014: Negative ads still work. They sway voters. Orman faded in part because he couldn’t be more aggressive as he tried to present himself as a new kind of pol.
▪ Johnson County is going conservative. Brownback and Sen. Pat Roberts carried the one-time moderate stronghold. Conservative Todd Tiahrt carried the county over Jerry Moran in 2010’s GOP Senate primary too.
▪ Here’s a sign that Mitt Romney is gearing up to run for president a third straight time: He made congratulatory phone calls this week to winning Republicans in a way that suggests he’s working hard to make friends.
▪ Apparently Kansans and Missourians aren’t that disgusted with Washington. All congressional incumbents won, and most won easily. Status quo reigns.
▪ The status quo reigns in D.C. too. One of Orman’s best arguments was the need for new congressional leadership. But as of Friday, Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell, Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner were all headed for leadership re-elections. It used to be that leaders who lost seats stepped down. No more.
▪ Memo to U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver: Jacob Turk, the Republican who keeps running against you, got within 7 points Tuesday night. The final count: 52 percent to 45 percent.
▪ Biggest upset: In St. Louis County, former governor John Ashcroft’s son, Jay, lost to Democrat Jill Schupp. Some were already penciling Jay Ashcroft in for a 2020 race for governor.
▪ The award for the most clever campaign flier goes to Jeff Roe’s Axiom Strategies for its hit piece on Missouri Senate candidate Bob Stuber, who lost to Republican Rob Schaaf in a north-of-the-river district.
One flier featured Stuber on the label of what looks like a giant jar of Skippy and said: “Politician Bob Stuber is nuttier than peanut butter.”