With polls consistently showing five sitting Republican senators tied or trailing their Democratic opponents, Kansas Republicans got some unwanted news recently when former Sen. Nancy Landon Kassebaum — their state's only woman elected to the Senate — endorsed Democrat Barbara Bollier for the U.S. Senate seat.
Kassebaum's blessing of the Democratic hopeful — herself a former GOP state legislator who changed parties — comes as the Sunflower State is in the midst of its most competitive Senate race since 1974.
A just-completed "deluxe" projection of the political site FiveThirtyEight showed a 52%-45% lead by Republican Rep. Roger Marshall over Democrat Bollier.
But the much-publicized endorsement by Kassebaum — daughter of revered former Gov. and 1936 Republican presidential nominee Alf M. Landon — could be a major ingredient in Bollier overtaking Marshall and thus becoming the first Democrat to win a Senate seat from Kansas since 1936.
In an exclusive interview from her home in Burdick, Kansas, Kassebaum, 87, told Newsmax "we don't walk in lockstep out here."
"I disagree strongly with my Republican Party becoming a rubber stamp for President Trump," she said, "and I really resent those terrible ads paid for by political action committees from out-of-state."
Kassebaum, who served in the Senate from 1978-96, specifically singled out spots that slam Bollier for her pro-choice views. (Marshall is pro-life and both major party nominees are physicians).
The former senator, who has always been pro-choice, recalled how in her first campaign, she received numerous questions about her position on abortion.
"I told that to my dad and he said 'why would that be a question?'" Kassebaum told us. "He believed you should respect those who differ with you on this issue and that abortion was a matter that should be decided by the family and church and not politicians."
Newsmax noted Kassebaum's second husband, the late Sen. Howard Baker of Tennessee, became the first Republican to serve as Senate majority leader in 16 years after the GOP took the majority in 1980.
Would she be upset if her endorsement led to a Bollier victory that helped turn the present 53-to-47 seat majority in the Senate into one with a majority of Democrats?
"No, not at all," Kassebaum replied. "Under those circumstances, I would hope then that the Republicans realize it takes people to walk across the aisle to get something done. And they should take a lesson from John McCain and find some new leadership."
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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