Donald Trump is going to carry Kansas, but I believe he will lose Republican Johnson County, and that’s why his ultimate defeat nationally is going to be a landslide.
Johnson County is Trump’s worst nightmare. It is a highly educated, affluent county with lots of moderate suburban Republicans. Trump will lose suburbs just like it, according to all the polls. He won’t be able to pull off a victory without winning the Republican vote in runaway numbers.
I’ll tell you when he lost me, and it was before the lewd tapes. What was scary to me were the unhinged tweet rants, in the middle of the night, over such trivial matters as a former Miss Universe. It so reminds me of the Humphrey Bogart character Capt. Queeg in the 1954 Oscar-nominated film “The Caine Mutiny.” He kept his ship’s officers up all night trying to discover the culprit behind some missing strawberries. It was that kind of obsessive behavior that caused the judges in the subsequent court-martial to find him unfit for leadership.
Politicians up for election throughout the country are trying to calculate what a lopsided Trump loss could mean to their candidacies. Locally, I don’t see much impact from Trump on down-ballot races. If anything, the blowback will be over unpopular Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback.
This may be a Republican county, but its moderate voters can switch parties in a heartbeat at the higher levels of government. Consider the last election, when Democrat Paul Davis challenged Brownback. In Johnson County, Brownback scored 49.1 percent against 47.9 percent for Davis, a real squeaker. At the same time, voters overwhelmingly re-elected Republican U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder and sent almost all Republican state legislators to Topeka.
Or consider this: Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts in that same election scored 49.1 percent against independent Greg Orman, who garnered 48.1 percent.
Johnson County leans Republican, but there are lots of moderate Republicans who can be swayed, and a healthy dose of independents who are unpredictable.
Yoder, whose Third District is mostly Johnson and Wyandotte counties, has got to be nervous, despite the $2 million he has amassed for his campaign. His opponent, business investor Jay Sidie, has hit Yoder hard with a one-two punch. He has tied Yoder to Trump, which has had limited impact. But Sidie also has blasted Yoder for being in cahoots with Brownback. This is surely having a more significant impact.
Yoder will likely win because he has wide name recognition as the incumbent and he works his district relentlessly. But this race will be a lot closer than many of us imagined when it started.
When it comes to the all-important state legislative races, liberals and moderates in Johnson County are licking their chops. They lust for a clean sweep of Republican incumbents, much as moderate Republicans swept out conservative Republicans in the August primary election.
I have seen no polling on state legislative races. So, I am going on hunch after observing politics in Johnson County over several decades.
With rare exception, Johnson County voters like to send Republicans to the state Legislature. It is one thing to switch parties for the president or governor, but quite another at the legislative level. For that reason, I think liberals and moderates who imagine a revolutionary repudiation of Republican legislative incumbents will be sorely disappointed.
Of course, Trump could lose Kansas like Goldwater did in 1964. Sidie could upset Yoder. And Johnson County could send a bunch of Democrats to Topeka. But I don’t think so.
Steve Rose, longtime Johnson County columnist: firstname.lastname@example.org