Other than, say, nuclear war or the Holocaust, there are few things worse than a victory party staged for a losing candidate: all drooping banners, sagging balloons and a few dispirited stragglers discreetly stuffing the last of the baby carrots into their suit jackets.
On the other hand, there are few things more fun than a victory party where everyone wins. And for the good guys there are few places in America where that experience can be had as it can occasionally be had in Kansas.
While pundits focus on the sexier races in the bigger states, allow me to summarize what happened in our part of the world and in one seemingly obscure race in particular.
Coming into the election, Democrats held the office of Kansas governor, secretary of state, lieutenant governor and attorney general. In Johnson County, an affluent Kansas City suburb, Democrats held the congressional seat and six seats in the state house.
At the end of the night, of all the above, Democrats had retained one seat in the Kansas state house. More impressive still were the margins of victory.
Jerry Moran captured an open Senate seat with 70 percent of the vote. Sam Brownback was elected governor with 63 percent. Kevin Yoder, a 30-something state rep, won back a U.S. House seat after 12 years of Democratic control with 61 percent of the vote.
Across the state line in Missouri, the results were nearly as heartening. Conservative, pro-lifer Vickie Hartzler beat 17-term Ike Skelton decisively. And Republican Roy Blunt thumped Robin Carnahan in a U.S. Senate race that was supposed to be tight.
In the near-miss category, Marine veteran Jacob Turk threw a genuine scare into the camp of the allegedly unbeatable Kansas City Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, a guy with a street already named after him.
On both sides of the state line, tireless, underfunded, door-knocking tea-party candidates ousted incumbents in a sundry assortment of races and pushed all Republicans to the right.
One Kansas race that deserves more attention than it might seem to deserve was that for secretary of state. Incumbent Democrat Chris Biggs ran against much reviled Republican aspirant Kris Kobach.
For those who are paying attention, it is not Moran, not Brownback, not Yoder who will emerge as the star of the party, but Kobach.
Kobach ran on the simple message, “Stop Voter Fraud.” The Kansas City Star mocked his message as trivial and the candidate as extreme. The Star had been merely parroting the line advanced by the local moderate Republican establishment since Kobach emerged a few years ago: He is too “scary” to win.
For RINOs and Democrats, “scary” means smart, conservative, principled and attractive. By this definition, Kobach is indeed their worst nightmare.
A graduate of a rural Kansas high school, Kobach graduated summa cum laude from Harvard, won a Marshall scholarship to study at Oxford where he earned a doctorate of philosophy in politics and rowed on the Oxford crew.
Not that it matters, but in politics it does, the 44-year-old Kobach is tall, a natural athlete, Hollywood good-looking and modest for all that. Oh yes, and after Oxford, he picked up a law degree at Yale.
In 2001, President Bush awarded Kobach a White House Fellowship to work under Attorney General John Ashcroft, a posting that turned hugely consequential after Sept. 11 of that year.
In Washington, Kobach emerged as the nation’s leading authority on illegal immigration. When he returned to Kansas to resume a chaired professorship at the University of Missouri Kansas City, he continued to work nationwide on immigration issues.
This past year, Kobach played a major role in the drafting of the Arizona anti-illegal immigration bill. In a saner world, Kobach’s Arizona work would have made him a local superstar, but in the insane precincts of academia, media and polite local society, it evoked only calls for his head.
“I have an issue with our secretary of state traveling around the country being involved in very volatile issues and Kansas being known for that,” said Kobach’s opponent, incumbent Chris Biggs.
The Kansas City Star could not have agreed more. “Chris Biggs and Kansas voters are standing in front of a runaway engine,” wrote Star columnist Barbara Shelley. “If this train runs them over, one needn’t look far down the track to see the impending wreck.”
The wreck has arrived. No Republican beat an incumbent more soundly than Kobach beat Biggs: 59 to 37 to be precise. The liberal experiment is over in Kansas. The RINOs are on the run.