Topeka — Republican leaders from the White House to the Statehouse on Tuesday closed ranks behind U.S. Rep. Jim Ryun, of Lawrence, as Democratic challenger Nancy Boyda appeared ready to pull off a major upset.
"We need to have Republicans come home," said Ryun, one of the most conservative members of Congress.
Boyda's surge prompted reports that President Bush would stop in Topeka on Sunday, two days before the Nov. 7 election. Earlier this month, Vice President Dick Cheney put on a fundraiser in Topeka for Ryun, which the candidate said netted $209,000.
Also on Tuesday, statewide Republican officeholders launched an all-out blitz for Ryun with a rally in the Capitol.
Touting Ryun's record were U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback, Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh, Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger, Treasurer Lynn Jenkins, House Speaker Doug Mays and lieutenant governor candidate Susan Wagle.
Ryun criticizes Boyda
After the rally, Ryun lashed out at Boyda, saying she was lying about his record and flip-flopping on major issues.
"She's willing to do whatever she can to get elected. Telling the truth is not part of her forte," he said.
Boyda, however, said voters were growing tired of Ryun's negative campaigning and adherence to national Republican Party positions on a wide range of issues.
"Voters have had enough of the big billion-dollar lobbyists running Congress," she said.
Ryun, a five-term incumbent, easily defeated Boyda in 2004 in the district that includes west Lawrence, Topeka, Manhattan and much of southeast Kansas.
But Boyda said this year that her uphill bid to unseat Ryun had become a David versus Goliath battle.
In recent weeks, Boyda has maintained that her campaign polling showed that the race had tightened.
But Ryun had always dismissed Boyda's claim, even insisting just days ago that he had a 17-point lead.
Even on Tuesday, Ryun's campaign manager, Jeffrey Black, said the race wasn't close. Just minutes later, however, Ryun conceded it was.
Other developments indicated a Boyda upset may be brewing.
The Cook Political Report, an independent, nonpartisan newsletter that analyzes campaigns, listed the Boyda-Ryun race as a toss-up. Three days ago, the report said the race likely would go to Ryun.
Another signal the district was in play was the entrance of national political party groups in the race.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee ran a television ad criticizing Ryun, and the National Republican Congressional Committee was set to launch an anti-Boyda ad.
Ryun denounced the DCCC ad that accused him of voting against military bonuses while supporting his own congressional pay raises.
More about the election
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- Bush may rally Ryun supporters in Topeka (10-31-06)
- 2nd District rematch growing heated (10-29-06)
- Ryun ads criticize Boyda on immigration (10-24-06)
- Democrat's message could gain ground (10-20-06)
- Candidate: Jim Ryun
- Candidate: Nancy Boyda
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- More about the U.S. House, 2nd District race
Ryun said he has voted for military pay raises each year for the past 10 years. And even though the DCCC operates independently from the Boyda campaign, Ryun called on Boyda to contact the DCCC and demand it remove the ad.
Boyda's campaign said it couldn't contact the DCCC about the ad because that would be illegal under federal campaign laws.
Meanwhile, Boyda said voters are questioning Ryun's campaign tactics. For example, Ryun has a television ad that accuses Boyda of supporting a "cut and run" approach in the war in Iraq.
"They are finally beginning to see through the false choices, such as 'Are you for cut and run or stay the course?' Those kinds of questions don't support a real discussion of the issues," she said.
On immigration, Ryun has accused her of supporting amnesty for illegal immigrants.
But again, Boyda said, voters are suspicious of Ryun's rhetoric.
"I have taken a strong stand on immigration for three years. He's been in Congress 10 years and let millions of illegal immigrants come in. Voting for a fence right before you come home for a campaign, they see through that," she said.
As for Bush's expected visit, Ryun's campaign said it didn't invite the president, but campaign manager Black said, "If he decides to come, we would welcome him with open arms."
Even so, the Ryun campaign sought to distance itself from Bush in some areas. A Ryun radio ad says the congressman opposed Bush's amnesty plan for illegal immigrants.
Brownback said despite Bush's low voter-approval ratings, a visit by the president would help Ryun.
"The president is the loudest voice, he is a clear articulator," he said.
Brownback, who once represented the 2nd District, said he believed Ryun would win, but he said the district can't be considered a safe Republican seat.
"It is a very balanced district, so when you get a tough election cycle, it makes it a very competitive seat," he said.