Despite what I said below about the Democrats winning everything in sight, the damage is not all that bad for Republicans in Kansas. Yes, Sebelius and Morrison cleaned house and Boyda surprised everyone (well, not *quite* everyone - I saw her 80 squillion yard signs), but there is far less bad news for the Kansas GOP once one looks behind the wall cloud.
Seige Mentality (hat tip: In this Moment) wraps up an excellent county-by-county analysis of Boyda's victory this way:
So where did Boyda's votes come from? Were Boyda's totals the result of 2004 Ryun voters switching sides, or did Boyda '04 voters show up while Ryun '04 voters stayed home?A realignment in Kansas politics is not just premature, it's wishful thinking.
The most likely explanation is that Boyda's 2004 supporters were energized and Ryun's weren't. While we won't know for sure until all the election results are certified, it looks like Democratic turnout was strong nationwide. Pre-election polling data indicated a large enthusiasm gap favoring Democrats. From my own experiences, I think Charlie Cook nailed this year's mood among Democrats when said they were "spitting nails and can't wait to vote." The lack of a viable Republican challenge to Sebelius probably also helped to depress Republican turnout. It's hard to motivate voters to get to the polls for someone who has no chance of winning.
From these numbers, it's clear that talk of a realignment in Kansas politics is premature...
Boyda (a former Republican) ran a great campaign, no doubt. She was everywhere and took advantage of a specific disappointment: that of moderate and conservative voters with the national Republican party. But that Democrat vote, even among "energized" Democrat voters, did not carry down the ticket, as we'll see.
And while Sebelius won, she did so with the former head of the GOP as her lieutenant governor (this doesn't mean he helped - I'll bet 90% of voters don't know who Mark Parkinson is - but again this will play in below).
Paul Morrison won, but he's an immensely popular crossover Republican from the state's most Republican county who was unopposed in the Dem primary.
Republicans Sandy Praeger and Ron Thornburg won the other statewide offices with margins similar to Sebelius and Morrison. Republican congressman Tiahrt and Moran won huge as well.
But down ticket, where we should see incredible damage if there was a true shift in Kansas politics in play, Republicans lost a total of 4 state house seats, leaving their majority (and here's the important number) at 79-46, only 5 seats less than the 2/3 needed to override a gubernatorial veto. The Kansas Senate, which was not up for re-election, remains 30-10 Republican.
In short, the Democrats remain a party of a few stars (Sebelius, Moore, and now Boyda and Morrison) but with no farm team whatsoever. The GOP has an incredible farm team, but lacked star power at the top this time around.
This is illustrated best by the addition of Parkinson - who is, like Sebelius, a former state senator, but he was a Republican state senator from a Republican county - to the top Dem ticket. Why did Sebelius not choose a real Democrat? The official reason is that she wanted to illustrate crossover appeal and to alienate the conservative right. And there may be some truth to that. But the major reason is that there is not a Democrat she could have chosen who would have added anything more to the ticket than she brought (don't believe me? Name one, then tell me why he wasn't chosen). Sebelius can't run again in 4 years. Who will be the Dem nominee? The former head of the GOP? The Dems not only failed to add to Sebelius' appeal, but they failed to bring a promising player up from the minors as well. That's because they have so few with potential.
And Morrison himself is not going to change just because he wears a jackass lapel pin instead of an elephant one. He'll still be the oft-re-elected Johnson County DA and until 6 months ago, a Republican.
Rather than saying that the Dems are making inroads into the moderate Republican vote, it is probably just as accurate to say that the GOP itself has branched out and now holds a number of the top elected Democrat offices in addition to all the GOP ones. This is less a GOP split than a GOP invasion of a weaker party.
Which brings me back to again to something I've been pondering but may be setting down here for the first time. Given that the Dem farm team (especially the local party structure in rural areas) is incredibly weak, the smart thing for conservatives to do now, in order to ensure center-right government in Kansas continues forever, might be to follow the lead of Boyda, Morrison, and Parkinson and join the Democrat party.
Think about it. What is the marginal return from adding yet one more pro-life, pro-gun Republican? Pretty low: not only is the Kansas House is full of them already, it just means fighting in the primaries. What is the marginal return of joining the Democrats and offering an alternative to the GOP that may very well be to the right of it? I'd say the potential return is pretty high. Should enough Democrats in the mold of Joan Finney or Tom Love get involved in the party - which already has trouble finding candidates - they could truly develop a bi-partisan coalition on issues important to conservatives. And besides that, imagine Steve Rose's conundrum as he has to choose between 2 Religious Right candidates.
Can pro-life, pro-gun, small government Democrats win in the Dem primary? They have in the past, so long as they run outside the few truly liberal strongholds (e.g. Lawrence). A pro-life black or Hispanic in Wyandotte or Sedgewick would probably find he fits those voters' preferences quite well (and why bother to run a Republican in Wyandotte County when a conservative Democrat will serve just as well? The Republican is not going to win anyway). Kansas right-to-carry legislation last year was shepherded thru the house by just such a Democrat, Rep. Candy Ruff of Leavenworth.
Of course, all the above is just strategery, not recommendation. I'm just saying that if I were head of the GOP (Hi, Derrick) and was interested in ensuring the continuity of GOP policy, I'd at least give it some thought.