McCain steps into Kansas GOP race

Sen. John McCain has endorsed Rep. Jerry Moran of the Kansas First District for the Republican nomination for the Senate. Rep. Moran faces Rep. Todd Tiahrt of Wichita for the nod, which appears to be tantamount to election to the seat being left vacant by Sen. Sam Brownback. Sen. Brownback is running for governor. No Democrat of statewide stature has filed or even shown in-terest.
Sen. McCain, the 2008 Republican nominee for president, chose Moran, he said, because he had a better record of fighting earmarks than did Tiahrt.
Republicans at large will find McCain’s decision to choose among the Kansas House delegation for the Senate nomination surprising. Both Kansas congressmen have been Republican loyalists. Both worked for McCain’s election once he was nominated. And, while the Arizona senator is obsessed with earmarks, that particular feature of the federal budget process isn’t — or shouldn’t be — at the top of anyone’s national priority list.
So why would McCain go out of his way to step into the Kansas race?
First, let’s take him at his word: Rep. Moran has called for a moratorium on earmarks; Rep. Tiahrt is in the top ranks of earmarkers, mostly because he represents Wichita and the aircraft industry and has seen a pressing need for special legislation to bolster Boeing and the rest.
But maybe there’s more. While both Kansas representatives are conservatives, Tiahrt stands farther to the right and is much louder on the social issues. In the not-so-distant past McCain condemned the more fervent of the religious right as fanatics.
It is possible that he chooses Moran because he finds him nearer the political center and more likely, therefore, to strengthen the Republican brand on the national scene.
Whatever his thought process, Sen. McCain showed leadership in making his choice at the beginning of the contest when his endorsement can make a difference.

— Emerson Lynn, jr.