What Donald Trump uttered in January 2016 indicated an almost supernatural grasp of political instincts. Trump knew something about his most committed supporters that most of us probably dismissed as bluster.
Warning: Kansans should heed the Trump lesson when measuring the prospects of Kris Kobach, the Republican nominee for Kansas governor.
Trump declared: “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters.” Undoubtedly, that got more than a few chuckles and some head shaking from those who could not see what Trump saw. He knew, somehow, that he was not only tapping into an electorate that would support him, but also one that would become devoted to him, almost as a cult-like figure.
Two recent national polls confirmed the breadth of Trump’s popularity within his own party. It boggles the mind. More than eight out of 10 Republicans approve of the job the president is doing.
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This revelation may confuse the mainstream media, moderates, liberals, Trump haters, people who think they are rational and believe — incorrectly — that Trump cannot be taken seriously. Many still believe his supporters will suddenly wake up and see that he is a cruel, ego-driven, grandstander who longs for a white America (whose culture, he believes, is being threatened by the influx of minorities, primarily brown people). Trump offers his followers a way back to this supposed promised land, where America will be “great again.”
If this magical message has worked for Trump, why wouldn’t it be equally effective in Kansas with a candidate who, in many ways, is just a mini version of the president? Kobach and Trump share many of the same personality traits, including immense egos and no reluctance to lie.
They are playing to similar audiences with the same anti-immigration rhetoric. They both appeal to the angry, fearful side of their followers. Add that to the massive built-in support from faithful Republicans who will vote the party line, and it is easy to see why a Trump victory portends a Kobach victory.
The foolish are assuming that “sensible” people will see through Trump once his lies become more apparent and more outrageous, and the loyalty to him will be lessened as his associates are found guilty of felonies.
Kobach’s following is just as impenetrable. No matter how many lies he tells or how many court battles he loses or how ludicrous his claims of widespread voter fraud become, there is no reason to believe that Kobach’s allies are not also Trump allies, and that Kobach, too, will hold on to his base, including nearly all Republicans. Those who are deluding themselves into believing that throngs of Republicans will abandon Kobach are the same people who cannot imagine how Trump, with all his erratic behavior, can possibly keep the vast majority of Republicans in his camp.
The idea that independent Greg Orman is going to capture chunks of disgruntled Kobach Republicans is a fairy tale. Ditto for Democrat Laura Kelly. Despite all the howling about how awful Kobach is, even from Republicans, there is no reason to doubt that at least eight out of 10 Republicans will approve of Kobach, too. And many within the other 20 percent will stick with him, just because he is a Republican, whether they approve of him or not.
Republicans make up about 40 percent of the electorate, both nationally and in Kansas. If the non-Republicans fragment themselves into two camps, it is virtually impossible to beat Kobach. Granted, Kobach’s overall popularity with Kansans of all political stripes is very low, according to statewide polls. But that does not necessarily translate into Republicans abandoning their nominee.
A Republican mutiny over Kobach is as preposterous as it ever was with Trump. And Kobach will have an advantage that Trump never had — the gift of a competitive three-way race.