The Media Really, Really Weren’t Expecting A Brownback Victory

Tristyn Bloom Contributor
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The Kansas governor’s race was a nailbiter all night, with Republican incumbent Sam Brownback neck and neck with his Democrat challenger Paul Davis right up until Davis conceded around midnight EST. Looking at recent media coverage leading up to the election, though, you never would’ve known that #KSgov was a race to watch, especially since so many talking heads heralded it as a referendum on conservative policies.

Left and right wing outlets began writing Brownback off for his aggressive tax policies weeks and even months ago, with many calling his predicted loss a mandate for moderation. With 100% of precincts reporting and Brownback having taken 49.96% of the vote compared to Davis’s 46.06% — with a higher Kansas voter turnout than in 2010 — let’s track the evolution of the narrative.

Why Are a Conservative Governor and Conservative Senate Candidate Struggling in Kansas? Dave Weigel, Slate, 3/14/14.

“In 2013 Gov. Sam Brownback had the votes to dramatically slash income tax rates, while keeping sales taxes above 6 percent. How’s it working? Well, unusually for a governor who’s returning money to taxpayers, Brownback has become terribly unpopular.”

A ‘Cautionary Tale’ In Brownback’s Failed Kansas Experiment. Steve Benen, MSNBC, 7/1/14.

“Brownback remains convinced, right now, that his policies were the right call, just as Darrell Issa believes there’s still an IRS scandal, John McCain believes war in Iraq is a great idea, and the entirety of the Republican Party believes the ACA is failing and the Benghazi conspiracy theories are true. Brownback is up for re-election. One recent poll showed a competitive race.”

Kansas’ Ruinous Tax Cuts. Editorial Board, The New York Times, 7/13/14.

“The evidence of failure is piling up around Mr. Brownback, whose re-election campaign is faltering because of his mistake. Yet he continues to cling to his magical ideology, pleading for more time.”

GOP moderates revolt in Kansas. Manu Raju, Politico, 7/16/14.

“Even though Brownback’s star continues to rise on the far right, some polls show him in a perilous position with Republican voters in the state. A Survey USA poll last month showed the governor losing to Davis by six points, with one in four registered Republicans defecting to the Democratic ticket, as well as independents turning the Democrat’s way by 19 points.”

Brownback Feeling Big Political Backlash To Tax Cuts In Kansas. Eric Pianin, The Fiscal Times, 7/16/14.

“And rather than reaping political benefit, Brownback has suffered major defections within his party as he faces a tough challenge from Democrat Paul Davis, the state House Minority Leader who until recently was viewed as a very long shot in this red state.”

Gov. Sam Brownback Will Keep Floundering in Kansas Because Reagan. Dave Weigel, Slate, 7/16/14.

“He pushed through deep tax cuts, nixing business taxes and phasing the top income tax rate from 6.45 percent to 3.9 percent, to prove that the supply-side gospel was due for a second great awakening. The subsequent economic slump in the state is probably the best-covered in the country.”

Sam Brownback Is Paying A Political Price For Bold Leadership. Brad Cooper, The Kansas City Star, 9/1/14.

“Sam Brownback always knew his time as Kansas governor would be short. So he promised to govern to the fullest.”

Conservative Experiment Faces Revolt In Reliably Red Kansas. John Eligon, The New York Times, 9/14/14.

“Although every statewide elected official in Kansas is a Republican and President Obama lost the state by more than 20 points in the last election, Mr. Brownback’s proudly conservative policies have turned out to be so divisive and his tax cuts have generated such a drop in state revenue that they have caused even many Republicans to revolt.”

This Is What Happens When Republicans Actually Enact Their Radical Agenda. Ryan Cooper, The Week, 9/17/14.

“In short, movement conservatism produces garbage economic policy. But the beauty is, now that fact is obvious to almost everyone in Kansas, including a bunch of Republicans. To his credit, Brownback actually believed in his ideas and put them in place. He is now paying the price for taking that risk.”

Sam Brownback’s Failed ‘Experiment’ Puts State On Path To Penury. Editorial Board, Washington Post, 9/21/14.

“Mr. Brownback’s Kansas trial is rapidly becoming a cautionary tale for conservative governors elsewhere who have blithely peddled the theology of tax cuts as a painless panacea for sluggish growth.”

Kansas’s Midterm Elections Are A Referendum On Supply-Side Economics. Max Ehrenfreund, Wonkblog, 9/29/14.

“Brownback hopes his policies will eventually improve Kansas’s economy and restore the state’s budget. His supporters call for patience and resolve. If new businesses start making hires and people looking for work elsewhere in the country decide to move to Kansas, those changes could take time. Before then, voters might just cut this experiment short.”

This Is What’s The Matter With Kansas. John B. Judis, The New Republic, 9/29/14.

“Throughout its history, Kansas has birthed an extraordinary cast of political extremists-—radicals who have won fervent followings and sometimes even national attention. But when those extremists have threatened to take over the state’s political system, they have inevitably been checked by Kansans’ deeply held preference for moderation in the governance of their state. If the state’s voters are faced with a choice between a mild-mannered, cautious Democrat and a Republican crusader with a Bible in one hand and a check from Koch Industries in the other, history favors the Democrat.”

Conservative Governance Is On The Ballot This Fall, Too. Greg Sargent, Plum Line, 10/1/14.

“It is not an exaggeration to say that three of the most important state-level experiments in conservative reform — all of which were outgrowths of the 2010 Republican triumph fueled by the Tea Party insurgency of Obama’s first term — are all, to varying degrees, standing in judgment before voters. This is on display most obviously in governors races: Scott Walker’s hard-fought reelection battle in Wisconsin, and Sam Brownback’s deep travails in Kansas.”

Sam Brownback in deep trouble: After derailing Kansas’ economy, governor lashes out. Simon Maloy, Salon, 10/9/14.

“Kansas governor Sam Brownback is among the surprisingly large contingent of GOP governors who, in an election year that promises big gains for Republicans, are struggling badly to win reelection. Ask anyone why Brownback is trailing his Democratic challenger, Paul Davis, and they’ll probably say something about how Brownback’s economic agenda of pairing painfully deep tax cuts with catastrophically deep tax cuts has hobbled the state’s economy.”

The Daily Show Destroy’s Sam Brownback’s Failed Conservative Experiment. Joanna Rothkopf, Salon, 10/17/14.

“Watch the clip below to learn what Kansas is going to do about it (spoiler alert: vote Democrat).”

The Great Kansas Tea Party Disaster. Mark Binelli, Rolling Stone, 10/23/14.

“Though different factors have played into the troubles of Brownback and Roberts this election cycle, it’s hard to imagine the stink coming off the governor’s budget not tainting the Republican brand as a whole.”

 Tax Cuts On Trial In Governors’ Races. Editorial Board, The New York Times, 11/1/14.

“There is only so long a governor can do great damange to a state before voters start to demand a change. In Kansas, Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican who has driven down his state’s credit rating and cratered its budget with ill-advised tax cuts, is paying a huge price in popularity for his actions.”

Conventional Wisdom: Brownback Is Finished. Eliana Johnson, National Review, 11/3/14.

“With the help of outside donors, Brownback successfully went after moderates in his own party, and he largely succeeded in defeating them in primary races two years ago. Brownback’s tax cuts were the subject of major disputes; the moderate Republicans said they were too severe, and they accused Brownback of signing them into law in May of 2012 through an act of legislative legerdemain. The same year, the moderate-Republican faction in the legislative managed to block several other initiatives Brownback had championed.”

As Kansas revenue numbers continue to drop, some Republicans quietly giving up on Gov. Sam Brownback. Jen Hayden, Daily Kos, 11/3/14.

“If Gov. Sam Brownback can lose in conservative Kansas, Republicans won’t be the only ones pointing to the damage conservative governance can do in a relatively short amount of time. Look out, 2016. It could be an uphill battle for conservatives.”

Kansas Retracts After Sam Brownback’s Failed GOP Experiment. Amanda Sakuma, MSNBC, 11/4/14.

“The test case on conservative governance — hailed by national Republicans seeking to replicate the model on the federal level — could be the defining issue that brings down once-safe Republican incumbents.”

As the Washington Examiner’s Tim Carney said:

And hey, who doesn’t love an underdog?

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