Two Styles of Campaigning

Ryun Seems to Be Everywhere; Jenkins Doesn’t

Posted July 8, 2008 at 6:22pm

Where’s Kansas Treasurer Lynn Jenkins?

In her race for the Jayhawk State’s 2nd district GOP nomination against former Rep. Jim Ryun, who was ousted in 2006, Jenkins has opted for a relatively low profile.

Although Jenkins’ fundraising has been active and fruitful, she has decided to delay airing her first television spot and dropping her first direct-mail piece until next week — just three weeks before the Aug. 5 GOP primary and roughly one week before early and absentee voting begins.

Meanwhile, Ryun has been on broadcast television in more than 70 percent of the district since mid-June, and his second ad, targeting cable television markets in counties with military bases, launched on Tuesday. His second direct-mail piece is scheduled to begin arriving in mailboxes today in the heavily rural, Republican-leaning district now held by freshman Rep. Nancy Boyda (D).

But Jenkins, who is set to raise money in Wichita and New York at an event headlined by former EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman, has decided to focus on grass-roots campaigning first. She seems content to save the heavy media blitz for the last three weeks of the campaign.

Jenkins campaign spokesman Patrick Leopold said Tuesday that he expects his candidate to make up ground — and then some — once she is “properly introduced” to 2nd district voters.

“I see an extremely tight race that we’re going to win,” Leopold said. “The reality is, everyone knows Jim Ryun, and no one is particularly fond of him.”

Privately, some Republicans question Jenkins’ strategy of waiting, although they believe either candidate would put them on solid footing to oust Boyda.

Polling conducted for the Ryun campaign in late April showed the former Congressman holding a commanding 44-point lead over Jenkins, 65 percent to 21 percent. Ryun served 10 years in Congress before Boyda beat him; Jenkins was elected to a second four-year term as state treasurer in 2006.

One Republican operative based in Kansas said Jenkins’ failure to be more active on the campaign trail and in the media earlier on could be what sinks her on Aug. 5. This operative predicted that Jenkins would spend the final three weeks of the campaign attacking Ryun’s Congressional voting record but said the effort would fall short.

“They’ve had no message and no direction, and I still don’t see a direction,” this GOP insider said. “Unless they’ve found something that is going to blow everyone out of the water in the last 25 days, it’s not going to happen.”

Ryun’s more accelerated effort to woo voters was evident over the July Fourth weekend, when he walked in twice the number of Independence Day parades as Jenkins.

Ryun walked two parades in the state capital of Topeka, one in Wamego on July 4, and one in Linn County on July 5. Jenkins walked only the Wamego July 4 parade, the state’s largest, and a second parade in Lebo, although her campaign staffed three additional parades.

The 2nd district has historically been solid Republican territory, and if anything it has skewed conservative. Ryun typically won by large margins, including a 15-point victory over Boyda in 2004, and President Bush also ran up big victories there in 2000 and 2004.

But in 2006, Boyda rode the Democratic wave to victory, beating Ryun 51 percent to 47 percent. Boyda campaign spokesman Thomas Seay said the Congresswoman is confident that, come November, the voters will reward her for the work she’s done by electing her to a second term.

“The best way for her to earn her re-election, and to serve her constituents, is to focus on her duties as an elected official. And that’s true whomever she runs against,” Seay said.

In 2006, Ryun was blamed for running a lackluster, uninspired campaign. However, since deciding to seek his old job early in the 2008 cycle, he has been campaigning hard, often seven days a week, while completely revamping his campaign team to include political operatives with proven track records.

Ryun’s plan for beating Jenkins involved starting early, so as to define himself before the state treasurer had a chance to brand him in a way that would be beneficial to her.

The Ryun campaign’s strategy now, with less than a month to go before the primary, is to target staunch Republican voters living in counties with military bases, while approaching the overall primary electorate in a way that recognizes that more than 10 percent of voters — a number that has been growing — tend to vote early or by absentee ballot.

Leopold signaled that Jenkins intends to hit Ryun for what she will claim was his failure while in Congress to address illegal immigration, high gas prices and excessive government spending. Ryun is focusing on the work he did while in the House that his latest television ad claims kept open military bases in Leavenworth and Riley counties.

And of course, Ryun is touting his plans to lower gas prices.

“Our campaign is well-positioned to win this race, but we’re taking nothing for granted,” Ryun campaign spokesman Kyle Robertson said. “We’re optimistic.”

While Boyda remains focused on doing her job as a Congresswoman and views the general election, according to Seay, as “quite a fair ways off,” Kansas Republicans are eagerly looking ahead.

They expect the presidential election to boost whomever emerges from the GOP primary in November. State GOP spokesman Christian Morgan, noting the setbacks Republicans there have suffered recently in races for state office and in contests at the Congressional level, said Jayhawk State Republicans are unified as they haven’t been in a long time.

“There’s a consensus out there that I have not seen before,” Morgan said. “Republicans will be gung-ho for whomever wins the primary.”