Dave Helling

Is Democrat Barbara Bollier rooting for Kris Kobach in GOP Senate race? She should be

Former Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius says she’s backing Barbara Bollier, the Republican-turned-Democrat, for the 2020 U.S. Senate nomination.

Will it make any difference? In the primary, probably. Bollier’s chief competitor, Usha Reddi, is even less well known among Democrats than Bollier. The other Democrats are virtually anonymous.

Bollier is the clear Democratic favorite for now.

The general election is a more interesting story.

Some Kansas Democrats remain deeply skeptical about Bollier’s chances, even with the Sebelius endorsement in hand. Kansas is a Republican state, and President Donald Trump will presumably be on the ballot.

There’s one exception: If Kris Kobach is the Republican opponent, Democrats believe, Bollier could defy history and win. “Kansas Ds want to have someone reasonable in place if KK is the nominee,” a Democrat told me in an email, referring to Kobach.

Consider what that strategy means. Bollier should actually want Kobach to win the GOP nomination next August. In fact, she should start boosting Kobach’s campaign as soon as she can. It’s her only chance.

Have we seen this before? Yes we have.

In 2012, Democrat Claire McCaskill believed Todd Akin would be her weakest Senate opponent. She secretly helped his Republican primary campaign, sharing her campaign data with Akin’s team — a move that skirted campaign finance rules — and running a TV ad claiming Akin was “too conservative” for Missouri, a line sure to attract Republican primary votes.

Akin won the GOP nomination and then blew his foot to bits during an interview about rape and abortion a few weeks later. McCaskill won the general election in a landslide.

That’s the fever dream infecting some Bollier boosters in Kansas.

It’s also a nightmare for more than a few Republicans, which is why Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s name still drifts in and out of the conversation. He’s in Wichita Thursday, which will only wag a few more tongues.

Pompeo looks less and less like a GOP slam dunk, though. His fumbling interviews and embarrassing hero worship of Trump have raised more than a few eyebrows.

NPR recently aired a blistering critique, pointing out Pompeo’s West Point pledge to never lie, cheat or steal, or tolerate someone who does.

“A West Point grad is supposed to answer with the truth they know is crucial — not quibbling, evasive statements,” Scott Simon’s commentary said.

Quibbling and evasion are engraved on Pompeo’s business card.

It will be hard for Bollier and the Democrats to promote Kobach, of course. Reporters and voters will be watching for it, and Kobach is marginally more politically astute than Akin, which isn’t saying much.

But Bollier’s best path seems to involve Kris Kobach on the other side of the ballot. If his stock rises next year, check carefully. It could be Democrats nudging it upward.

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Dave Helling has covered politics in Kansas and Missouri for four decades. He has worked in television news, and is a regular contributor to local broadcast programs. Helling writes editorials for the Star, and a weekly column. He was awarded the 2018 ASNE Burl Osborne award for editorial leadership.