Just two days ago, Axios reported that senior Republican officials were “holding their breath,” hoping Donald Trump wouldn’t endorse Kris Kobach ahead of today’s gubernatorial primary in Kansas. The report added, “A source close to Trump told me they thought the president had been convinced to hold off on supporting Kobach.”
Of course, convincing Trump is one thing; making sure he follows through is something else.
President Donald Trump on Monday endorsed Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, one of the country’s most prominent champions of unsupported claims of widespread illegal voting and former vice chair of the president’s defunct vote fraud commission, in the state’s GOP primary for governor.
“Kris Kobach, a strong and early supporter of mine, is running for Governor of the Great State of Kansas. He is a fantastic guy who loves his State and our Country – he will be a GREAT Governor and has my full & total Endorsement! Strong on Crime, Border & Military. VOTE TUESDAY!” Trump tweeted.
The announcement comes on the heels of a New York Times report that said the Republican Governors Association “lobbied the White House to stay out of the primary” and West Wing officials said they had “little desire for Mr. Trump to intervene here.”
The president, however, has a habit of ignoring the wishes of those around him. As a result, Kobach is likely to get a boost ahead of today’s primary, to the frustration of GOP officials who prefer current Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer (R) – who assumed the office after Sam Brownback (R) resigned to join the Trump administration – and who believe Kobach is unelectable, even in a state like Kansas.
Indeed, the only person who was happier with yesterday’s presidential endorsement than Kobach were the Democrats who are eager to defeat him.
After all, Kobach isn’t just a far-right crusader on immigration and voter-suppression efforts, he’s also a lawyer recently generated national headlines in the wake of some humiliating legal defeats. Last week, the Kansas secretary of state was also exposed for his role in a “sham” in which he traveled from town to town, persuaded local officials to pass anti-immigrant ordinances, defended the communities against lawsuits, and lined his pockets while the towns lost money on losing cases.
Kobach has also reportedly put white nationalists on his campaign payroll.
This is not to say a Kobach primary victory today will necessarily lead to a Democratic victory. Dems are running several strong contenders in a primary of their own today, but with failed Senate hopeful Greg Orman running as an independent this year, it’s possible the mainstream vote will be divided, and the GOP nominee will prevail, no matter how extreme the Republican is.
But given Kobach’s record and scandals, his nomination would nevertheless give Democrats the best chance of success.
Which is precisely why so many Republicans wanted Trump to stay out of the race. The president, however, just can’t seem to help himself. GOP officials urged him to remain neutral in Georgia’s gubernatorial primary, but he nevertheless endorsed Brian Kemp. Party leaders also asked Trump to steer clear of Florida’s gubernatorial primary, but he backed Rep. Ron DeSantis anyway.
In each of these races, many GOP insiders preferred more electable candidates. Trump didn’t care. As absurd as it may sound, if Democrats end up winning any or all of these contests, they may have the Republican president to thank.