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Ballot measures -10/31/2014, 11:10 AM

Roberts not the answer -10/30/2014, 10:25 AM

See the signs -10/30/2014, 10:23 AM

Incumbents always win -10/30/2014, 10:23 AM

Convention center -10/30/2014, 10:23 AM

Schodorf for SOS -10/30/2014, 10:14 AM

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Americans can fix the Senate -10/29/2014, 10:19 AM

A plea to city commissioners -10/28/2014, 8:58 AM

Having no price tag -10/28/2014, 8:58 AM

Leiker understands -10/28/2014, 8:58 AM

Justice doing his job -10/28/2014, 8:58 AM

Kansas and Greg Orman -10/28/2014, 8:58 AM

'Surplus' KDOT money needed in western KS -10/28/2014, 8:58 AM

Ready for a budget spin -10/28/2014, 8:58 AM

Dishonest mailing -10/28/2014, 8:58 AM

Changing Republicans -10/27/2014, 10:02 AM

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Medicare experiment -10/27/2014, 10:02 AM

Profile, or die -10/27/2014, 10:02 AM

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Politics at their finest -10/27/2014, 10:01 AM

Most important election -10/26/2014, 4:02 PM

Enough is enough -10/26/2014, 4:02 PM

Is Roberts on final lap? -10/26/2014, 4:02 PM

Democrat turned Brownback supporter -10/26/2014, 4:02 PM

Editor Bradlee; For it All, 'Thank You' -10/26/2014, 4:02 PM

Davis for governor -10/26/2014, 4:02 PM

Roberts a changed man -10/26/2014, 4:02 PM

Time to stay the course -10/26/2014, 4:02 PM

Embarrassing economists -10/24/2014, 9:13 AM

Sherow for House -10/24/2014, 5:07 PM

It can't get crazier (wanna bet?) -10/24/2014, 9:04 AM

Digital distractions -10/23/2014, 10:01 AM

Orman for Senate -10/23/2014, 10:01 AM

Federal persecutors -10/23/2014, 10:00 AM

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Leiker is the answer -10/22/2014, 5:38 PM

Sun shining on schools? -10/22/2014, 5:38 PM

Airline a great addition -10/22/2014, 5:38 PM

Huelksamp: ideologue extraordinaire -10/22/2014, 5:38 PM

Kids do count -10/22/2014, 10:31 AM

Needing the past in the future? -10/22/2014, 10:31 AM

In praise of hunting -10/22/2014, 10:30 AM

What is a CID? Will it work for mall? -10/21/2014, 10:22 AM

Judging importance on the ballot -10/21/2014, 10:22 AM

Kansas Speaks -10/21/2014, 10:22 AM

Paying for schools -10/19/2014, 1:21 PM

Joining forces for Orman -10/19/2014, 1:21 PM

Research before voting -10/19/2014, 1:21 PM

Davis is moderate? -10/19/2014, 1:21 PM

The most important election in your lifetime -10/19/2014, 1:21 PM

Huelskamp stands out -10/19/2014, 1:21 PM

Kansas farm interests -10/19/2014, 1:21 PM

Keeping unfounded reports from 'going viral' -10/19/2014, 1:21 PM

The age of cynicism -10/18/2014, 9:02 AM

Preventable diseases -10/17/2014, 10:28 AM

Second term needed -10/17/2014, 10:28 AM

Kansans deserve better -10/17/2014, 10:28 AM

Officially killing Americans -10/17/2014, 10:27 AM

New era at FHSU -10/16/2014, 10:01 AM

Roberts is right choice -10/16/2014, 10:01 AM

Crumbling Constitution -10/16/2014, 9:52 AM

Redbelly's future -10/16/2014, 9:52 AM

Kansas deserves better -10/15/2014, 10:23 AM

Remember to vote on Nov. 4 -10/15/2014, 10:23 AM

You almost feel sorry for Sean Groubert -10/15/2014, 10:23 AM

Register to vote -10/14/2014, 10:14 AM

Living on that 70 percent -10/14/2014, 10:14 AM

New bullying problem for schools: parents -10/14/2014, 10:14 AM

Cheerios, marriage equality, the Supreme Court -10/13/2014, 9:49 AM

Wedded bliss -10/12/2014, 5:54 PM

Who is the real fraud? -10/12/2014, 5:08 PM

Teenagers 'make some noise' -10/12/2014, 5:08 PM

Not so private property -10/10/2014, 10:01 AM

Federal funding -10/10/2014, 10:01 AM

Teacher indoctrination -10/10/2014, 10:01 AM

Vote Republican -10/9/2014, 9:49 AM

Non-partisan politics -10/9/2014, 9:49 AM

Teen driver safety week Oct. 19 to 25 -10/9/2014, 9:04 AM

FHSU party -10/9/2014, 10:11 AM

Poverty in America -10/9/2014, 10:11 AM

Let the women serve -10/9/2014, 10:11 AM

Time for new direction -10/8/2014, 9:49 AM

Improving Kansas economically -10/8/2014, 9:35 AM

Water abusers -10/8/2014, 9:35 AM

Play safe on the farm -10/8/2014, 9:34 AM

Where the money comes from -10/7/2014, 10:24 AM

The president's security -10/7/2014, 10:24 AM

Marriage equality -10/7/2014, 10:24 AM

The sins of the father are visited -10/6/2014, 9:02 AM

Cannabis in America: The bottom line -10/6/2014, 9:20 AM

A reason to celebrate -10/6/2014, 9:20 AM

Gov. shields wealthy from paying for schools -10/5/2014, 2:07 PM

Passionate protest in defense of civil disorder -10/5/2014, 2:07 PM

October is time for baseball and, of course, film premieres -10/4/2014, 2:16 PM

Alley cleanup -10/3/2014, 10:01 AM

Will the West defend itself? -10/3/2014, 10:01 AM

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SPOTLIGHT
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Learning from the candidates

Published on -3/23/2014, 1:12 PM

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Any new reactionary movement involves a learning curve. The fervor of true outsiders leads them to reject everything about the existing structure they revolt against, even those things the old guard does well. That reactionary attitude is usually what ensures the outsiders will make mistakes while learning. For instance, movement conservatives have led an effort to drive the Republican Party towards hard-right outsiders since the Tea Party movement began in 2009. Some of the outsider candidates they have recruited have succeeded. But for the most part these outsider candidates have been disastrous examples of why, while the public might scream for new blood in politics, they crave the polish and strategic professionalism of traditional candidates.

The new breed of outsiders have now set their sights on Kansas, and so far the candidacy of Dr. Milton Wolf has shown the potential for the same kind of train wreck that plagued Tea Party-affiliated candidates in the last two cycles.

Wolf comes with all of the outsider bona fides that Tea Party organizations look for: success in private business, no political experience, and an extreme vocabulary that borders on inflammatory. The fact Wolf is a physician gives him a legitimate voice in opposing Obamacare, and his distant relation to the president likely makes Obama detractors giddy. Taking on the incumbent Republican in Kansas with the highest approval rating in Pat Roberts is tough enough, even if Roberts' numbers are below 50 percent and suggest electoral vulnerability. But Wolf has not been able to communicate that sense of Roberts' vulnerability to donors: Wolf took in less than a quarter million dollars from donors in the fourth quarter of 2013, just over one-third of Roberts' haul. And challengers who unseat incumbents generally must out-raise their in-office targets by a factor of 2-1 to merely be competitive.

Last week showed real weakness in Wolf's campaign: an unpolished and unprofessional communication style.

Professional campaigners spend significant time training candidates in saying the right thing and scrubbing their personal behaviors to ensure they do not get the campaign off-message.

Wolf, a physician, posted patients' X-Rays on his Facebook wall and made inappropriate comments about them. While not as patently damaging as Todd Akin, Christine O'Donnell, or Richard Mourdock, they are enough to question Wolf's judgment, fitness, and ability to run an on-message campaign through the primary to capitalize on the one piece of opposition research they have released: Roberts' brief return trips to Kansas.

The common thread between O'Donnell and Wolf is that neither was experienced candidates and thus prone to gaffes. Even Mourdock, an experienced candidate, was a five-time loser before winning a low-profile statewide seat in Indiana. Initial success in primaries where less than 15 percent of the electorate vote is fine, but winning a statewide general election is much different. Wolf might repeat O'Donnell's fate: win the primary, implode in the general election, and hand what was a safe Republican seat to Democrats. Chad Taylor's candidacy is certainly indicative of the strategy: Taylor could whip Wolf in a general race, but would tilt at windmills against Roberts.

Despite efforts to convince voters a complete reset of Washington is in order starting with the people elected, voters do not trust the loose cannon nature of outside candidates. As a result, the usual outcome of elections they contest is a hard-fought and divisive primary leading to embarrassing defeats in November. Wolf and his untested brethren give movement conservatives hope that they can lead a revolution of outsiders in Washington. If the outsiders they want to elect are Democrats, then they're right. If not, then the lessons they need might be in the very candidates they want to expel.

Chapman Rackaway is a professor of political science at Fort Hays State University.

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