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Joseph A. Aistrup: Brownback may still have presidency shot

  • Published Sunday, Dec. 9, 2012, at 12 a.m.

Is it too early to start talking about the next presidential election in 2016?

University of Kansas political science professor Burdett Loomis ventured into this distant election future to pour cold water from the Kansas River on Gov. Sam Brownback’s potential presidential candidacy (“Brownback’s goals are costing citizens,” Dec. 2 Opinion). Loomis noted that Brownback’s name is almost never mentioned in newspapers as a likely Republican presidential challenger and that the airwaves are currently filled with the faces of Brownback’s likely competitors (New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis.).

Yes, Brownback has zero national presence right now. But does this doom his presidential candidacy in 2016? I don’t think so.

Let’s discuss why Brownback is out of the national limelight. Very early in the GOP primary process, he supported Texas Gov. Rick Perry. When Perry’s campaign fell off the tracks, Brownback was the odd man out. At the 2012 GOP Convention, GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney featured his early supporters: Christie, Rubio and especially Ryan.

But after considering various fixes for the Republican’s apparent deficiencies in 2012 (immigrants, single mothers, etc.), the GOP likely will pivot back to the right and decide that Romney lost because he was a moderate rather than a real conservative. The party likely will decide that to beat the Democrats, it has to nominate an unapologetic, real conservative for president in 2016.

Within this context, Brownback can become a viable candidate. Several factors work in his favor. He’s not associated with Romney, the loser. He has put his nose to the conservative grindstone, implementing real conservative policies in Kansas – including cutting personal income taxes, privatizing the delivery of government services, and cutting government waste. Finally, there are a couple of deep-pocketed multibillionaires, perhaps from Wichita, who – thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling – can single-handedly finance a presidential candidacy.

The fly in the ointment for Brownback is the tax-cut plan that he signed into law during the past legislative session. These tax cuts along with the planned rollback of the state sales-tax rate will cause a shortfall in the state general revenue fund of about $750 million annually. Cuts in spending of this magnitude, on top of those already enacted over the past four years, will have many unintended consequences, almost all negative for local property-tax rates.

The tax-cut law, which was more reckless than conservative, was not a good first step toward building Brownback’s record of success.

For the sake of Kansas and Brownback’s presidential chances, let’s hope that the new Legislature will work with him to correct this taxing situation.

Joseph A. Aistrup is a professor of political science at Kansas State University.

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