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Kris Kobach was supposed to be the frontrunner. But is he still?

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach File photo

The term “shoo-in” was invented for guys like Kris Kobach.

Kansas’ intensely controversial secretary of state and gubernatorial candidate strolled into 2018 as the man to beat — only there was no other Republican man, or woman, strong enough to do any beating. In a seven-way field, Kobach appeared dominant.

He was, and is, the best-known candidate of the gubernatorial lot. He’s got national political connections that only begin with the president of the United States who, by the way, carried Kansas by more than 20 points. And Kobach remains a darling of religious conservatives, who turn out to vote in August primaries.

Suddenly, though, January morphed into March, and Kobach is looking nothing like King Kong.

“For someone we thought should be a strong frontrunner, he has certainly fallen down in several areas,” said University of Kansas political scientist Patrick Miller.

Take last month’s poll by Kansas City-based Remington Research Group, a GOP-leaning outfit. That survey had Jeff Colyer, the successor to former Gov. Sam Brownback, at 23 percent to Kobach’s 21.

So much for runaway frontrunners.

A few weeks previously, the 2017 fundraising reports were released and again Colyer topped Kobach, this time easily. Colyer had $632,000 in donations to Kobach’s $355,000.

“Humiliating” was the word one political scientist attached to Kobach’s performance. Kobach even had the benefit of a November fundraiser with Trump’s oldest son.

Exhibit 3 in the Kobach-may-not-be-who-we-thought-he-was sweepstakes is his performance in recent days in a Kansas City, Kan., federal courtroom. That’s where Judge Julie Robinson dressed him down so often it could’ve become a drinking game had it been televised.

Among Kobach’s miscues was failing to properly introduce documents into evidence.

“Evidence 101 — not going to do it,” intoned Robinson, who was appointed to the bench by President George W. Bush “We’re going to follow the rules of evidence.”

So much for that Yale law degree Kobach once earned.

“The basic courtroom procedure problems that he’s being slapped with nearly every day make us wonder: Was he teaching remedial courses when he was a law professor?” quipped longtime Statehouse scribe Martin Hawver in his political newsletter.

This week, The Star dredged up quotes from Kobach’s new running mate, Wink Hartman, who once was running for governor, too. Turns out Hartman once had derided Kobach for “not doing his current job.”

But Kobach’s real problem may be the recent reshaping of the GOP primary race when several rivals ended their campaigns. The smaller field may not bode well for Kobach, who’s so controversial that he’s believed to have a support ceiling of 30 or 35 percent. That total would almost certainly be enough to win a seven-candidate race — and that’s what his early frontrunner status was based on.

But it may not be enough in a contest that increasingly looks to pit Kobach against Colyer, with Jim Barnett and Ken Selzer as also-rans.

Kobach seems unfazed. He said a recent private GOP poll had him at 31 percent support to Colyer’s 18 percent.

Some don’t buy it.

“People either love him or hate him,” said Mark Hutton who also recently dropped out of the race. “There’s no in-between. His policies are very polarizing. That worries a lot of people.”

Kobach appears more and more like the second coming of Sam Brownback. He should be worried, too.