Saturday, November 15, 2008

2008 proves Kansas is less purple and more red

Despite the Obama phenomenon nationally, and the Democratic presidential candidate's coattails pulling Democrats across the finish line in races around the country, Kansas Democrats actually lost ground. Despite Gov. Sebelius' use of shadowly 527 groups like the Bluestem Fund, and the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent by Kansas Democratic Party and out-of-state groups, far surpassing the resources of key Republican and conservative groups, the KS Democrats only have a net gain of one state house seat to show for their efforts (Republicans still hold a 77-48 edge in the lower chamber). Additionally:
  • Sen. Pat Roberts won re-election with 60 percent of the vote. Jim Slattery's 36 percent is only a little better than what he garnered when he ran against Bill Graves for governor in 1994, before heading to DC for his lobbying career. Despite eager attempts by the KC Star and other liberal media to paint this race as an upset opportunity, the numbers show that there was no chance of Slattery defeating the popular and well-liked Roberts
  • KS Democrats actually had a net loss of one state senate seat (a net gain for the GOP). In the 40 member senate, the Democrats are now just down to 9 seats.
  • One of the greatest successes: GOP state treasurer Lynn Jenkins defeated incumbent Nancy Boyda in the 2nd congressional district 51 to 46 percent, one of only a handful of races nationwide where an incumbent Democrat was defeated. KS now has 3 Republicans in its congressional delegation and one Democrat.
  • Several Republicans targeted by Sebelius' machine won handily. Former Shawnee state representative Mary Pilcher Cook handily won her race to succeed Nick Jordan in the state senate, defeating her opponent by 10 percent despite being heavily outspent and targeted by outside liberal groups.
  • Sen. Julia Lynn, running for the first time to retain the seat she was appointed to, faced Olathe Superintendent Ron Wimmer in a heavily targeted race against an opponent with great name recognition. Lynn turned the tables on her opponents and won by 10 percent in a race the pundits told us would be "close."

Kansas Republicans should be proud--the "Roberts effect" outweighed the "Obama effect" and despite all her organizational efforts, Sebelius will leave Cedar Crest with less Democrats in office than when she first took the oath of office. Combined with the still resounding 287,000 Republican registration advantage statewide, Republicans will be in great shape as 2010 approaches. Next time: watch as we chroncile some new, some old faces in the party and who we think has the right skills and message to advance as the future of the Kansas GOP.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Where do we go from here?

Tuesday’s results were devastating for Republicans. The good news (if any): Democratic projections for 60+ seat majorities fell short, and it looks like the Democrats will only have 57 or 58 seats, just short of a filibuster-proof majority.

Are we still a center-right country or has the United States shifted far-left by giving an openly liberal, far-left candidate 53 percent of the vote (the first Democrat to receive over 50 percent of the vote since Jimmy Carter)? Well, political control of our government (now dominated by the Democrats) tells one story but the voter referendums tell another story. 86 percent of Missourians voted to make English the official language of the state, 57 percent of Nebraskans voted down affirmative action in education and hiring decisions, and three states (Florida, Arizona, and California—yes, California) voted to amend their state constitutions to ban gay marriage.

And despite the lofty predictions, voter turnout rose this year, but not substantially, and not anywhere near the highest turnout ever. So far, the numbers show that 123.5 million people turned out to vote, up just over a million from the 122.3 million that turned out in 2004. The African-American vote only increased from 11 percent to 13 percent this year, but Obama garnered 93 percent of their vote vs. the 88 percent garnered by Kerry in 2004. That was enough in to make a substantial difference, handing the election to Obama, with an 8 million vote lead in the popular vote, 66 million to McCain’s nearly 58 million. Additionally, McCain underperformed Bush in most counties and states, which means that with turnout almost identical, Obama did not win—McCain lost. The Republicans failed to turn out for McCain as they did for Bush in 2004 and 2000 (maybe they were discouraged by the polls and media?) and Obama handily won the Independents, due to anti-Bush fatigue.

That being said, the GOP was beaten badly and must now re-brand, re-group, and re-form. The party must return to its roots while devising pro-growth, free-market solutions for today’s problems, instead of relying on traditional buzzwords, sound bites, and nostalgic appeals to the Reagan era. Reagan’s success was due to his innate ability to create a center-right coalition, communicate his principles, and find solutions to the problems of the 1980s. We must do the same—we need to emulate Reagan in style and method, but not in solutions—we must combat the problems of the 21st century with solutions rooted in local control, limited government, and free markets—we know liberals will rely on higher taxes and an ever-growing government behemoth, but it takes skill, effort, and the masterful art of communication to respond to these challenges head-on with free-market solutions that the American people will respond to and embrace.

It would be easy for us to hide, to become depressed, to want to crawl into our holes and just shrug everything off. We need to stay and fight, hold the Obama administration and its fans in the media accountable, and ready to seize on the opportunities that occur when the spell wears off, there is no longer a buzz, and Americans realize that these ultra-liberal policies are not helping, but hurting them, and Obama's promises were just that--unfulfilled promises. We need to be ready to lead and ready to present a bold, unmistakable alternative to help the country wake from it's ill-considered jolt to the left. It starts with the congressional elections in 2010, and the next presidential election in 2012.

We need to build the grassroots organizations now to compete with the Moveon.orgs and Daily Kos' of the left. We need to expand and develop our use of electronic technologies in reaching out to voters, and we need a coordinated, strategic youth outreach effort to bring youth back into the fold (Reagan and Bush 41 won the youth vote; Republicans must and can bring these voters back into the fold). Lastly, we need a younger, more inspirational and more relatable generation of new, reform-minded Republicans in tune with our ideals who can reach out to a broad cross-section of America. We need Sarah Palin, Bobby Jindal, Eric Cantor, Michael Steele, Linda Lingle, Tim Pawlenty, Norm Coleman, Mike Pence, Mario Diaz-Balart, Devin Nunes, Marsha Blackburn, John Thune, Kevin McCarthy, and many others. This is our party. Let's take it back.