The congressional race in the fourth district of Kansas should be a sure thing for Republicans, which is why it's so odd that the party seems to be pulling out all the stops to make sure next week's election doesn't go awry.
Voters in Kansas head to the polls on Tuesday for a special election to select a new congressman to replace former Rep. Mike Pompeo, who President Donald Trump tapped to lead the CIA. Kansas Democrats nominated civil rights attorney Jim Thompson while the Republicans nominated their State Treasurer Ron Estes.
Although Harry Enten of Fivethirtyeight argued in February that Democrats will find it "extremely difficult to win in a district that no Republican congressional candidate has won by less than 20 percentage points since 2002," Politico reported late Friday that the National Republican Congressional Committee has spent more than $90,000 in ads during the final days of the race. This include $67,000 to air a TV spot that accuses Thompson of being too pro-choice on abortion for Kansas voters, while another $25,000 has been spent on digital advertising.
Perhaps most surprising of all is the fact that Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is also reported to be visiting Kansas to campaign on Estes' behalf. The choice of Cruz itself makes sense, given that he defeated President Donald Trump in the 2016 Kansas caucuses with more than twice as many votes, but sending out Cruz suggests that the party is worried about voter turnout in this deeply red district and believes a higher-profile Republican can help boost the base.
Chris Pumpelly, a spokesman for Thompson's campaign, told The Wichita Eagle that "there are people in Washington who are very concerned about Ron Estes’ performance in this election. They would not be doing this if this were in hand for Estes.