The overall scope of the GOP victory on Nov. 2 was arguably even more impressive in Kansas than nationally.
Republicans won every statewide office on the ballot and all four congressional districts. The biggest surprise was at the local level, where the GOP picked up 16 new Kansas House seats.
The average margin of victory in the five competitive statewide races (U.S. Senate, governor, secretary of state, attorney general and treasurer) was 26 percentage points; the average margin of victory in the four congressional races was 32 points.
The new 92-33 GOP advantage in the Kansas House, coupled with the 31-9 advantage the Kansas GOP enjoys in the Senate, puts Republicans in their strongest position since the early 1950s.
Among many factors nationally — including a terrible economy — two forces were at work in Kansas to help bring about the Republican success. The first is that Republican voters blamed the "party in power" for not only the woes of the country but for overreaching in trying to solve them.
Nationally, President Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., were blamed for taking the country in the wrong direction. At the state level, the "party in power" was seen as the Democrats' as well, as they held 4 of the 5 Kansas statewide offices, including the governorship. In a state where nearly 1 in 2 voters is a registered Republican, this was a universe out of whack.
Hence, it appears as if most Republicans engaged in straight-ticket voting. This was a tactic actively promoted by the Kansas GOP in their campaign events, encouraging voters to conduct a "clean sweep" of all statewide offices.
The second factor was that this straight-ticket voting tactic was devastatingly effective because Republicans also voted in what appear to be record numbers.
Party registration in Kansas roughly runs 44 percent GOP, 28 percent unaffiliated and 27 percent Democratic. In the three elections from 2004 to 2008, GOP voters as a percentage of all voters held steady at about 50 percent. Unaffiliated voters have wavered from a high of 25 percent in 2008 to a low of 17 percent in 2006, and Democrats usually come out in direct proportion to their registration numbers, except in 2006 when the number was 31 percent.
Based on my analysis of this past election, those who turned out to vote appeared to have been 57 percent GOP, 26 percent Democratic and 16 percent unaffiliated. So it appears as if many unaffiliated voters in Kansas sat out this election, and Republican voters were more than happy to take their place. Meanwhile, Democrats voted in roughly the same numbers they always do.
All of this added up to predictably big GOP wins at the statewide level, but also looks to have triggered the surprising and even shocking Democratic losses in the races for Kansas House.
Nationally there was much talk about the "enthusiasm gap" between Democrats and Republicans and what effect it would have. In Kansas, it looks as if the enthusiasm advantage of the Republicans over both the Democrats and the unaffiliated voters wasn't a gap but a chasm.