Do the math. Of Kansas’ 1.7 million registered voters, there are 745,000 Republicans and 460,000 Democrats. In fact there are more unaffiliated voters — 490,000 — than registered Democrats.
Because of the huge disadvantage in voter registration, Kansas Democrats have always had to win so-called moderate Republican and independent voters to be successful in statewide races.
Former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius made a career out of it, most notably in 2002 when some moderate Republicans voted for her instead of conservative Republican Tim Shallenburger.
But Sam Brownback, a U.S. senator and by almost all accounts considered a member of the conservative wing of Republican Party, appears to have the moderate Republicans in his camp, which is bad news for his Democratic opponent, Tom Holland, a state senator from Baldwin City.
Exhibit A: Former state House Speaker Kent Glasscock and former Senate Majority Leader Lana Oleen were cheering Brownback on at a Brownback stop in Manhattan last week. Both were considered moderate Republicans during their time in the Legislature.
“He’s definitely got his finger on the pulse,” Oleen said of Brownback.
Glasscock said Brownback’s campaign themes are pitch perfect for the times.
“The message that has always brought all Republicans together is a focus on fiscal responsibility, economic growth, opportunity, responsibility and accountability,” Glasscock said. “Senator Brownback clearly has those five pillars of Republican thought as the foundation for his campaign,” he said.
His message also is devoid of talk about socially charged issues such as abortion, which Brownback opposes.
Exhibit B: Even Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger, considered a mainstay in the moderate camp, has sung Brownback’s praises.
“Sam will work diligently to promote job growth and high quality education, the cornerstones of a vibrant Kansas economy,” Praeger said.
But Holland’s campaign says Holland will get support from moderates, Democrats and independents.
“Of course statewide Republican operatives have to endorse the statewide Republican candidate. But Tom Holland isn’t listening to the partisan players, Tom is listening to the people,” said Holland’s campaign spokesman Seth Bundy.
“People across this state — moderates, independents and Democrats — know that we can’t let the failed policies of Washington take hold in Kansas,” Bundy said.
Democrats also are saying Brownback’s votes while in Congress undercut his message about wanting to help Kansas.
Brownback voted against federal stimulus dollars that have gone to help public schools, Medicaid and numerous public works projects in the state.
But Glasscock said it’s government spending that is turning off Republican voters.
“His (Brownback’s) message is absolutely on target with what Republicans across the state truly believe,” he said.