On Tuesday Kansas GOP chairman David Miller formally announced that he would challenge Gov. Bill Graves in the gubernatorial primary contest. As individuals, it is difficult to imagine two men who have less in common than Graves and Miller. As The Wall Street Journal reported on April 24, “Gov. Graves is the wealthy scion of a family that made its fortune in the trucking business and, at 45 years old, looks polished and urbane.” Graves also married money. His wife is the daughter of Ron Richey, chief executive officer of the Alabama-based Torchmark Corporation, an insurance and financial services holding company. In 1997, Forbes magazine reported that Richey’s total compensation was more than $1.5 million. Miller, on the other hand, is the product of modest means who grew up in Eudora, Kan. He and his wife, Marjorie, operate an independent insurance agency. The two men also hold very different views on fiscal and social issues. While Miller has advocated more significant tax cuts, Graves has pushed cuts large enough to avoid public outcry, yet small enough to keep state government growing by 20 percent during 1998 and 1999. Of course, the two also disagree on social issues such as abortion, gun control, and education. In addition to cultural and ideological differences between Miller’s conservatives and Graves’ moderates, this race has a personal element. In 1990 Miller ran on the ticket with gubernatorial candidate Nestor Weigand against then-Gov. Mike Hayden. Although the GOP leadership took sides in the primary and refused to share voter information with Miller and Weigand, the conservative challengers lost by just 7,600 votes of out 310,000 cast. Hayden was then defeated by Democrat Joan Finney the following November. Five years later, the conservatives denied Graves, who had just won election to his first term, the opportunity to pick his own party chairman. Despite the opposition of Sen. Bob Dole, the conservatives prevailed and Miller became chairman. One of Miller’s first acts was to bury the hatchet and announce that he would support Dole should the senator decide to run for president in 1996. While Miller worked for party unity by supporting Dole, Graves chose the more divisive road in 1996 by selecting Sheila Frahm to replace Dole in the U.S. Senate. This was done after Sam Brownback had announced his intention to run for Dole’s vacated seat. (For the good of the party, many Republicans believe that Graves should have appointed then-Rep. Pat Roberts to succeed Dole.) Graves then actively campaigned for Frahm and about 10 legislative candidates during the primary campaign. “It was incredible to see that happen,” Miller recently told The Wall Street Journal. “[Y]ou’re out there getting killed by the guy who’s the leader of the party,” he said concerning conservative candidates. Graves further alienated conservatives in 1996 with two impertinent statements. First, when conservatives pushed for larger tax cuts, Graves responded, “What part of ‘Hell, no’ don’t you understand?” Later, when asked about the GOP platform, Graves answered, “Other than 20 things, I think it’s a great platform.” Obviously, Miller has finally grown tired of bending over backwards to accommodate the moderates. While he has stated that his goal is to promote conservative principles in his race against Graves, Miller also says that he is running to win. In order to do this, he must overcome two obstacles—Graves’ popularity and money—and the “extremist” smear. This may not be as difficult as many suggest. Graves is too popular: The point is often made that Graves’ approval rating, which is said to be above 80 percent, is too formidable an obstacle for any primary opponent to overcome. Miller’s supporters counter this point by noting how quickly George Bush’s 90-percent approval rating dissipated. However, it is very unlikely that Graves’ approval rating will suffer a similar fate in the three months between now and the August primary. But must it? During the 1996 primary campaign between U.S. Senate candidates Sheila Frahm and Sam Brownback, Mason-Dixon Political/Media Research, Inc. found that 67 percent of Kansans responded that Graves was doing a good or excellent job. Of the 40 governors checked by Mason-Dixon that summer, only three had higher ratings. Mason-Dixon pollster Del Ali stated at that time that, if Frahm lost, “The perception that [Graves] can swing an election with his popularity would go right out the window.” Despite Graves’ popularity in 1996, the candidate he supported, Frahm, was defeated by Brownback, who received much of his support from social conservatives. Graves has too much money: It has been reported that Graves already has $910,000 on hand. Like his popularity, Graves’ campaign war chest is seen as an overwhelming obstacle. It must be remembered that Frahm started out with huge advantage over Brownback in 1996. “Some political observers suggested that she reaped perhaps $1 million in free publicity as a result of a slew of newspaper stories and television interviews after her appointment by Graves, reported the Kansas City Star’s Steve Kraske. Again, with the grass-roots support of social conservatives, Brownback managed to overcome Frahm’s initial advantage. David Miller is too extreme to become governor: If Graves’ supporters believed that popularity and money were enough for the governor to win a primary election, the “extremist” smear would be unnecessary. However, it was unleashed even before Miller made his bid official. “Let’s get the gloves on and let’s go at it,” Kansas Senate President Dick Bond, R-Overland Park, said last month. “If the people of Kansas want an extremist for governor, then let’s find out.” The “extremist” Bond was referring to, of course, was Miller. Last weekend, Bond again lashed out at Miller and his supporters when he said that Miller could win with a light vote “because there are enough extremists to elect him if regular Republicans don’t vote.” Not only did Bond insult Miller’s supporters, he said that these supporters are not even regular Republicans. Bond is using the word “extremist” as an “anti-concept.” According to Ayn Rand in the essay “‘Extremism,’ or The Art of Smearing,” the purpose of anti-concepts is “to obliterate certain concepts without public discussion.” Bond and other moderate Republicans realize that if Miller and Graves engage in legitimate public discussion, Miller stands a better chance of being victorious in August. Unfortunately for Graves and his henchmen, the “extremist” anti-concept doesn’t really work all that well. It didn’t work when Nelson Rockefeller employed it against Barry Goldwater in 1964. It didn’t work when Democrats nationwide screamed “extremist” in 1994. And it didn’t work when Republican Ed Eilert and, later, Democrat Judy Hancock used it against Vince Snowbarger in 1996. In fact, Bond and liberal columnists such as the Capital-Journal’s Dick Snider, who in March called Miller and his supporters “Wing Nuts,” may find that their insults will only serve to energize Miller’s boosters and turn off more moderate voters. Will Miller be able to prevail over the obstacles of popularity and money and the “extremist” smear? We cannot be certain. In fact, there is much uncertainty involved with this race. For example, regardless of the winner in August, will the GOP enter November as a unified party as it did in 1996? Or will a bitter intraparty battle allow a less-qualified Democrat to become governor, as was the case in 1990? Will the winner’s supporters seek revenge against the supporters of the loser? Or will supporters from both camps instead expend their energies on defeating Democrats in the general election? Will Republican candidates such as Vince Snowbarger get caught in the line of fire? Or will these candidates find a way to stay out of the fray? Who knows? The only thing that is certain this spring is that David Miller’s gambit will create a lot of heat in Kansas this summer.