Maybe politicians just can’t help themselves. When a candidate wins, as Republican Ron Estes did in the special election Tuesday for the 4th Congressional District seat, he has the opportunity to sound gracious, to unify disparate constituencies.
He decided to mock doubters, those who dared think he — a Kansas Republican and the clear favorite — might not prevail. Said Mr. Estes: “The pundits were talking about… this wasn’t a seat we were going to win, that we were going to lose a Republican seat… that it was a chance for the Democrats.”
Well, pundits who predicted Mr. Estes’ loss, if there were any, were wrong. The pundits who said the race would be close were correct. So were national Republicans, who were worried enough that the party gave Kansas more attention in the last week or two than it does in some presidential elections.
Even President Donald Trump tweeted in his support, calling Mr. Estes, a man he doesn’t know from Adam, “a wonderful guy.”
Other Republican bigwigs getting involved were Vice President Mike Pence, Paul Ryan (via a super PAC) and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, in the flesh, at a rally for Mr. Estes.
After the election, and the collective Republican sigh, National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Steve Stivers issued a statement describing what Kansans had just accomplished. “By electing
Ron Estes, Kansans rejected the far-left policies of liberal activists…” Actually they did no such thing. While Republicans were exaggerating, Democrats were doing what they too often do: blaming Republicans for effectiveness Democrats can’t seem to replicate.
James Thompson, the Democratic candidate, said, “Mr. Estes did not beat us. It took a president of the United States, the vice president, the speaker of the House, a senator coming into our state and a bunch of lies to drum up a vote.”
Maybe. But but that makes one wonder where the Democratic heavy hitters were. Perhaps Democrats didn’t call on them out of the realization that they probably wouldn’t have persuaded more Democrats to cast ballots or persuade more Republicans to help elect a Democrat.
After all the fuss, the national pundits and party officials headed to Georgia and other states holding special congressional elections. The 4th District, as has so often been the case, is again in the hands of a Republican. But Republicans in Kansas or nationwide who dismiss this as just another close call might do so at their peril.