Skip to comments.Beating Moore elusive for GOP
Posted on 12/16/2004 10:49:39 PM PST by jw2therescue
During the heat of a summer Republican primary, Kris Kobach promised to campaign against Democratic U.S. Rep. Dennis Moore like no one had before.
He did. And he lost by a bigger margin than any Republican who has challenged Moore, whose political survival skills keep him in office in the Republican-dominated 3rd Congressional District.
The latest win doesn't ensure an easy election for Moore in the future, but it does mean Republicans may have an even more difficult task of defeating him.
There is chatter among Republicans on the Internet complaining that Kobach's conservative campaign emphasizing a gay-marriage amendment and militarizing the country's borders set the party back heading into the next election.
Maybe we have to wait for Dennis Moore to retire. I don't know, said Steve Cloud, a Johnson County Republican Party activist. It gets a little depressing getting beat by Dennis Moore.
Over the years, Moore has taken out Vince Snowbarger, a sitting Republican congressman; Phill Kline, a conservative state legislator who was later elected Kansas attorney general; Adam Taff, a former Navy pilot; and Kobach, a former adviser to retiring U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft.
This year, Moore won by almost 12 percentage points, bigger than in any of his three previous races.
I have continued to believe that with each election it becomes more and more difficult to beat Dennis because the power of incumbency is so strong, said Greg Musil, a moderate Republican who ran for the seat in 2000 but lost in the primary to Kline.
People have found themselves comfortable voting for him. Whether they're independents or moderate Republicans or conservative Democrats, Dennis has a comfort level with them because they have now voted for him four times.
Moore has said it's a good bet he'll run for a fifth term in 2006. He won't speculate about what he'll do beyond 2006.
Who will be Moore's opponent in 2006? No one seems to know, although some political observers believe it will have to be someone who can bridge the schism within the party over cultural issues such as abortion.
In a way, Kobach could have been that person, said Thomas Frank, a Johnson County native and author of What's the Matter With Kansas?, which chronicles the divide in the party.
Frank said Kobach could have used his academic background, with degrees from Harvard, Yale and Oxford, to appeal to some establishment Republicans in northeast Johnson County who traditionally vote moderate.
I think they would have been willing to overlook the differences if he had appealed to them after he had won the primary, Frank said. I was very surprised to find that he was going to stick to his conservative base.
Some experts and those familiar with the politics of the congressional district believe that the Republicans will need to field someone who opposes abortion rights but is not seen as a single-issue candidate. That candidate will need to be friendly toward business, fiscally moderate and supportive of education.
But in various interviews, several themes emerge that signal just how formidable Moore will be for Republican challengers in 2006. They include:
Overcoming deep divisions within the party in order to win enough support to beat Moore. Many credit Moore's successes to a Republican Party at war with itself over social issues.
Overcoming the incumbent's record of constituent services coupled with his deep roots in the community as district attorney and member of the Johnson County Community College board of trustees.
Undercutting Moore's strategy of portraying himself as a middle-of-the road candidate. Moore votes with the Democratic majority a lot of the time, but he also has supported the president on key issues like the No Child Left Behind Act and authorizing the use of force in Iraq. He enjoys good job-approval and personal appeal ratings.
Raising money and getting out the vote. Moore began this year's race with $1 million in the bank while two Republicans were slugging it out in the primary. He had raised about $2 million as of mid-October. Further, he has refined his get-out-the-vote efforts over the years, especially in Wyandotte County, where he rarely loses a precinct.
Moore said he thinks he benefits from the fact that many voters are independent thinkers and will go with someone they know and are comfortable with. If they don't know the person, they'll vote their party, he said.
Chris Esposito was one of the architects of Moore's first campaign victory over Snowbarger in 1998. Now a political consultant at the political organization Emily's List, he continues to advise Moore.
In this race, the social issues that Kobach based his campaign on never really stuck because, like in the past, Moore has been able to successfully frame the debate around his independence and stewardship, Esposito said.
Kobach had a passion for his issues that was actually detrimental to persuading voters to agree with him because his passion takes him so far to the edge of the issue, he said.
When you're running against somebody who is out on the edge on the right and people are comfortable with you because you were DA and people have re-elected you as congressman, that becomes a significant advantage, he said.
Dennis Moore is an ultra-liberal who needs to go. Kris Kobach did a terrible job against Dennis in 2004. Kobach ran the worst campaign I have ever seen before. He lost by 12 points! Adam Taff and Phill Kline only lost to Dennis Moore by 3 points. Kansas Republicans should get their act together soon!!!!
I'll defer to Kansas FReepers and other experts on the question of whether Kobach ran a good or a bad campaign.
However, on the face of it, from 1,500 miles away, I'd say there are two obvious explanations for Moore's survival:
One, the RINO wing of the Kansas GOP; two, it is damned near impossible to beat an incumbent, especially once he's past his first re-election. The best bet is if he/she gets fat and lazy, and I doubt that a junior guy like Moore has.
Swing voters don't see congressmen as people who are responsible for national policy. They see them as errand boys who watch D.C. for them and steer money to the district. They're sort of like mayors who can escape blame far more easily than real mayors can.