A super PAC aligned with top Republicans is launching a major new ad buy in Kansas, where the GOP is attempting to stop controversial candidate Kris Kobach from winning the nomination in a must-win Senate race for the party’s endangered majority.
The new TV buy from Senate Leadership Fund will be $1.2 million and goes on air Thursday, according to details shared exclusively with POLITICO. The ads will all be positive messages boosting Rep. Roger Marshall, the two-term congressman who is one of several candidates on the ballot in the Aug. 4 primary and has earned endorsements from many establishment-aligned Republicans who view him as the best bet to keep the seat in GOP hands this fall.
Republicans have continually expressed concern about the state of the race in Kansas, which has not elected a Democrat to the Senate in nearly a century. Republican leaders vowed to oppose Kobach, the former Kansas secretary of state who lost the 2018 gubernatorial race. Several other candidates are running, including businessman Bob Hamilton, who has self funded millions in TV ads.
Last week, Sunflower State, a super PAC with links to Democrats, began running ads in the race backed by more than $3 million, making it by far the largest spender. The group will not have to disclose its donors until after the primary. Their first ad called Kobach “too conservative” while attacking Marshall as phony, attacks they repeated in a new ad launched Wednesday that could influence GOP primary voters in Kobach’s favor. A separate ad from the group was solely a negative attack against Marshall.
The pro-Marshall boost from Senate Leadership Fund could help lift him in the final stretch of the primary in the face of the attack ads — and could also help stabilize his image in the state if he emerges as the nominee, the organization’s president, Steven Law, said in a statement.
“The latest ad from [Chuck] Schumer’s Kansas pop-up PAC shows that they want to start the general election early by going after Marshall, and we aren’t going to let them get the jump on us,” said Law, a former longtime aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who also ran the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
The ads from SLF are just the latest example of Republicans attempting to consolidate around Marshall. Sen. Pat Roberts, who is retiring from the Senate, endorsed Marshall Tuesday. The Chamber of Commerce is running ads boosting Marshall, and former Sen. Bob Dole endorsed him early in the race. The National Republican Senatorial Committee has remained neutral.
The airwaves have become increasingly crowded and nasty in the closing stretch of the race. While SLF’s ads will all be positive, a second super PAC — which is run by a Republican operative and also will not have to disclose its funding source until after the primary — is running ads attacking Kobach specifically in an effort to weaken his image.
The candidates have run a variety of positive ads and attacks against their competitors. Marshall’s latest ad, which began airing Wednesday, hits Kobach on electability. “Kris Kobach can’t win,” a narrator says at the end of the ad. “And he shouldn’t.”
Democrats have rallied behind state Sen. Barbara Bollier, a former Republican who switched parties recently and has outraised her potential Republican opponents. Bollier been running a series of positive TV ads while the GOP primary rages.