Chat about Sam Brownback's presidential prospects with political scientist Bob Beatty

December 11, 2006

This chat has already taken place. Read the transcript below.

Bob Beatty

Bob Beatty is an Assistant Professor of Political Science. His interests, research, and projects in Kansas Studies focus primarily on Kansas history and politics. Beatty is also the producer and moderator for Public Affairs programming on KTWU and WUCT in Topeka. His programs focus on in-depth discussions with Kansas' political leaders (such as Senator Sam Brownback, Senator Pat Roberts, Congressmen Jerry Moran and Dennis Moore, etc.) and in election years forums between candidates for key Kansas offices such as Governor, U.S. Senator, and U.S. Congress.


Hi: I'm Journal-World Staff Writer Chad Lawhorn, and I will be the moderator of today's chat. We're pleased to have Bob Beatty, an assistant professor of political science at Washburn University, with us today. We already have some questions submitted, so we'll get started. But as always, please feel free to send in questions throughout the chat.


Realistically what are Brownback's chances of getting the Republican nomination and who in your opinion will become the next senator from the state of Kansas?

Bob Beatty:

youngitized: Two big questions! It's hard to use the term "realistically" when you're talking presidential elections because in recent memory we've had Jimmy Carter and Howard Dean, just to name two, emerge out of political obscurity to the top of the packs. On the positive side for Brownback, this is a wide open race for both parties in the sense that there isn't a president or vice-president running. That hasn't happened since 1952, and if you count Alben Barkely then we go back farther than that! So anything's possible. That being sad, he's hurt by the trends in the Republican party, which is the trend for presidential nominees with either "name or fame." If you look at the presidential nominees from the GOP, voters tend to go for candidates who are well-known politically or at least have link to well known republicans. Goldwater is the real exception to this in 1964. It's actually the democrats who tend to go for relative unknowns (Clinton, McGovern, Dukakis, Dean, etc.), not the GOP, which has gone for Dole, Nixon, Reagan, the Brownback has to fight that GOP tendency to go with a "name," - meaning McCain, Romney, Guliani probably.
As for Kansas in 2010, that's a tough one! If Sebelius is NOT tapped for a cabinet job in 2008, then she would be the likely democratic candidate. If she is, then Morrison could consider it. For the GOP, well, there's lots of republicans who might be interested in running, including Phill Kline, Jerry Moran, Jim Ryun, Todd Tiahrt...and the list goes on and on.


Who do you think can rival Sam Brownback on social conservative issues in Iowa? How important are social conservative issues there?

Bob Beatty:

bvalentine: Social conservatives are important in Iowa. One thing to remember is that although the Iowa caucus gets an incredible amount of media attention, it really is the passionate party members who are represented in the caucuses because they have to brave the cold and go to a local high school and spend a few hours talking politics. Pat Robertson did well in Iowa, for example.
Regarding who can rival Brownback on social conservativism, it will be interesting to see if Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee decides to run. He's a former minister and has his interesting personal weight loss story to tell! Then there's Newt Gingrich. Gingrich will have to win over the social conservatives since his women-issues when he was speaker turned off a few, but his campaign of ideas could be surprising. As for McCain and Romney, I wonder if they can win over the social conservatives given their past rumblings to the left on various issues.


The 2006 congressional elections saw many moderate Republicans defeated, even though some were against Bush's Iraq policies. If GOP moderates were disinfranchised with 2006, what role will they play in 2008, in the context of Brownback running as a social conservative?



Bob Beatty:

Well, first, in the primaries and caucuses, where will GOP moderates go? At this point it looks like McCain or Guliani. I would think that Brownback is hoping that McCain and Guliani split the moderate vote and he then emerges strong in early contests by grabbing the conservative vote.
If Brownback were to ride this strategy to a GOP win, in the general election he would have to figure out how to manuever in a way to NOT lose all those moderates. That might be possible if his opponent were Hillary Clinton, but might not be possible if his opponent is someone more moderate. If that's the case, then you could have 1964 all over again. It should be noted that a clear advantage McCain has is that he's run before. If Brownback were to emerge as a front runner early on, the media and campaign-related deluge would be incredible, and it might be difficult to manuever in that context. Just ask McCain, Dan Quayle, Pat Buchanan and Howard Dean about the pressures of the sudden spotlight when its never shined that brightly before!


Why do senators rarely win the presidency?

Bob Beatty:

takeastand: You bring up a very interesting question. Not only do senators rarely win the presidency, they rarely win the nominations. It's worse for House members - I think the last House member to win the presidency was Martin Van Buren. When you look at who wins presidential nominations, when there isn't an incumbent president, vice-president or former vice-president running, that is - you really see politically savvy Governors getting the nod. Usually these governors will target one or two accomplishments in their states and then run for president based on their personality and some key issues. That's how we got Carter, Dukakis, Clinton, W. Bush, and even Reagan. What's striking - and possibly a little frightening - is how little the gubernatorial accomplishments of these people came into play when they ran for president. As for Senators, well, two things go against them: 1 - They're in Washington, and voters prefer an "new voice" if there's isn't an incumbent running, and 2 - They have votes and compromises on a myriad of issues that can be used against them in the primaries or the general election (look how some of Kerry's votes were used against him in the last election).


We'll make this next question our last one, and it will come from me. If Sen. Brownback is unsuccessful in winning the GOP nomination, do you think he can have enough influence in the race to become a vice presidential nominee?

Bob Beatty:

Vice presidential selection is a very dynamic, fluid and mysterious process. It often depends on the dynamic of the nomination contest. For example, John McCain would have been a perfect VP choice for Bush in 2000, but because of their animosity during the race, it wasn't going to happen. On the other hand, John Edwards sort of came out of nowhere and ran a pretty good campaign and didn't bash Kerry much, so he was chosen by Kerry to run with him. Right now, there seems to be a new dynamic to the VP selection, which is gender and race. I think for both tickets its going to be very important to have a woman or non-white male on the ticket. We see this in Kansas. 2 of the three GOP gubernatorial tickets had women as Lt. Gov candidates and of course Governor Sebelius has balanced her ticket as well. On the Democrats side we have Obama and Hillary being strong candidates, and that might affect the GOP. So that doesn't bode well for Brownback. But, if he runs a surprising campaign and demonstrates a real talent for campaigning like Edwards did, and the GOP nominates a moderate, then certainly he would be considered as a VP choice. Now, the fun part might be if Hillary doesn't get the nomination, at which point Governor Sebelius would be a viable Democratic candidate for vice-president, and all of a sudden Kansas is dominating the national stage.


Thank you Prof. Beatty and everyone else who participated in this chat.

Bob Beatty:

Thanks! I enjoyed the questions.