The number one key in getting all of last week’s predictions correct was to ignore the polls and trust my instincts.
With rare exceptions, polls called for a defeat of both Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts. To my knowledge, no poll indicated Brownback would win by four points and Roberts by 10.
Why did I ignore the polls and predict a Brownback and Roberts victory?
There were two major reasons.
What no pollster knows is whether a “likely” voter is actually going to vote, and whether an “unlikely” voter will have a change of mind and show up to vote.
I had a strong hunch that the hardcore Republicans would, by God, get themselves to the voting booth and make their voices heard. I was counting on the premise that Democrats and independents, as well as moderate Republicans, would simply not show up in adequate numbers, particularly in western Kansas.
That apparently is what happened. How else can you explain a 10-point spread for Roberts, when he either was behind in every poll, or in rare circumstances, just a couple of points ahead?
The midterm election in Kansas drew about half of all registered voters, but which half? The answer is clearly the dedicated, rock-solid Republicans, who made their voices heard, loud and clear.
Never underestimate the motivation of an older, white Republican to make it to the polls. And it’s not that likely Roberts voters lied to pollsters ahead of time, but that when Republicans actually were confronted with the ballot, they just could not bring themselves to vote for a non-Republican independent. This is what I surmised when I predicted Roberts would win.
The other major factor was the abysmal approval ratings in Kansas of Barack Obama. At only 32 percent approval — six in 10 disapproved —– what I suspected would happen in Kansas did, in fact, happen. And it happened nationwide, as well, which is why I knew the Republicans were going to take over the Senate.
The deep hostility toward the president is just what Roberts and Brownback counted on in their campaigns. They might as well have been running against Barack Orman and Barack Davis. The statewide races were nationalized as a referendum on Obama. What Kansas experienced was part of a wave of repudiation of Obama’s policies.
Roberts had the other powerful message that a vote for Greg Orman could translate into a vote for Harry Reid and a Democratic Senate.
As I said in my prediction, Kansans have been voting for only Republicans to the Senate since 1932, and that pattern would not be broken now by an independent, and by one who could tilt the Senate toward the Democrats.
The Brownback race is particularly significant, because Democrat Paul Davis tried to localize the race, as much as possible. He dwelled on the devastating impact of Brownback’s radical tax slash-and-burn policies, and that carried him to within four points of the winner. But the dislike for Obama trumped those local issues.
Furthermore, the impact of the Brownback tax cuts have, in general, not been felt yet by the electorate. Yes, there are projections that the state may be headed toward bankruptcy, that education funding will be cut, and that critical services may be on the chopping block.
But to most Kansans, those consequences — if they, indeed, turn out to be true — are in the distant future.
As of today, the pain has hardly been felt, and today is when the votes were counted — not in two or three years, when draconian cuts will almost certainly hit home.
Despite the closeness of the race. we can expect Brownback to go forth with his promises to reduce taxes further, with a hope and a prayer that the Kansas economy will boom. He believed that theory before, and there is no reason to believe he does not adhere to the same philosophy, even after a fairly close election.
The anti-Obama tidal wave swept through the nation and the plains of Kansas. The always significant turnout of Republicans in midterm elections also swept across Kansas and the nation.
Those factors may have stunned those who paid too much attention to the polls, and to those who correctly saw much closer races in Johnson County and eastern Kansas, and mistook that for a statewide referendum.
To reach Steve Rose, longtime Johnson County columnist, send email to email@example.com.