Republicans have called in the cavalry ahead of a Tuesday special election for a House seat in deep-red Kansas.
Vice President Mike Pence recorded a robo-call backing the GOP candidate, Ron Estes. The National Republican Congressional Committee is spending nearly $100,000 on ads in the closing days. And Texas Sen. Ted Cruz -- who won the state's 2016 Republican presidential primary -- is headed there for a Monday afternoon event.
It all comes amid concerns that the Wichita-based 4th District -- vacated when former Rep. Mike Pompeo became President Donald Trump's CIA director -- has suddenly turned into a real race.
Republicans hope it won't forebode even worse news a week later, in a Georgia House contest where Democrat Jon Ossoff has raised more than $8 million, or later in a Montana House special election.
The candidates are Estes and Jim Thompson. Estes, 60, has been the Kansas state treasurer since 2011. Thompson is an attorney and Army veteran. There's also a Libertarian contender -- Chris Rockhold. They're vying to represent a district that includes all or parts of 15 counties in south-central Kansas, and where the population base is Wichita.
This should not be a competitive district. Trump won there by 27 points, and Mitt Romney carried it by 8 points in 2012. Pompeo more than doubled his Democratic opponent in a 61-30 win in the fall. A Democrat hasn't represented this district since Dan Glickman was ousted in the 1994 Republican wave election.
The GOP moves are all about the margins. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is not spending money on this race at all, and even the Kansas State Democratic Party rejected Thompson's requests for funding for mailers.
Why is this so close
An energized Democratic base has left Estes with a much smaller advantage in the early vote than Trump had at this stage, operatives there said. Republicans -- sensing the bad message even a neck-and-neck race would send as the party recruits House candidates and tries to shepherd conservative legislation to passage on Capitol Hill -- are trying to make sure Estes is elected comfortably. It's also why Democrats are downplaying expectations. If Thompson pulls an absolute stunner, though, it'll send shock waves throughout the political world.
This district is the home base of Koch Industries. That's the company led by Charles and David Koch, the Republican mega-donors.