What’s the Matter with Kansas is the title of a well known political book written by Thomas Frank in 2004, detailing how white working-class Kansans vote against their best interests by choosing to elect Republican politicians. A decade later, in a different context, Republican Governor Sam Brownback might be asking the same question. Voters however seem to have an answer. Governor Brownback is what’s the matter with Kansas.
A Public Policy Polling (PPP) survey released February 21st, finds that Brownback’s job approval rating in the state has dipped to 33 percent, while 51 percent disapprove of the Governor’s job performance. Even more shocking, Brownback now trails Democrat Paul Davis by a 42-40 margin in his bid to be re-elected Governor of Kansas. The collapse of Brownback’s popularity can hardly be understated. In 2010, riding the Republican wave of that year, he won the Governor’s race 63-32 over Democrat Tom Holland. In 2012, Mitt Romney carried the state over Barack Obama by a lopsided 60-38 margin. However, after four years of Brownback in charge Kansas appears to be fed up with the Republican Governor.
Voters overwhelmingly disapprove of Brownback’s tax plan and his determination to starve the state of necessary funding for education. He is predictably unpopular with Democrats and Independents, but even with Republicans he has fallen out of favor. Nearly one in four Republicans would vote for Democrat Paul Davis, rather then endure another four years of a Brownback administration. Fewer than half of Republicans say they approve of his job performance.
Brownback’s dismal poll numbers may serve as a warning to Republican Governors across the country facing re-election. After four years in office, many state executives now have to face the voters again and run on their records. In Kansas, the voters appear unhappy with the Governor’s record, and they appear poised to replace him with a Democrat. With Kansas being one of the reddest states in the country, Brownback’s struggles should worry Republican Governors in more competitive states like Wisconsin, Ohio, and Michigan. The Republicans are very successful when they run as outsiders bashing the government. However, when they have to run on their own records as government officials, the strategy tends to falter. Brownback’s track record of failure as the Governor of Kansas is now an obstacle to his re-election as voter across the state have decided that Sam Brownback is what’s the matter with Kansas.
Keith Brekhus is a progressive American who currently resides in Red Lodge, Montana. He is co-host for the Liberal Fix radio show. He holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Missouri. In 2002, he ran for Congress as a Green Party candidate in the state of Missouri. In 2014, he worked as a field organizer for Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick’s successful re-election bid in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. He can be followed on Twitter @keithbrekhus or on Facebook.