Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

Now the Kansas Senate Race is Getting Serious

In Senate on September 17, 2014 at 10:54 am

Several political news bites came forth yesterday suggesting that any doubts about whether Sen. Pat Roberts (R) is now in a toss-up campaign despite Kansas’ deep red Republican voting history have been extinguished. The fact that Republicans must now divert attention and substantial resources to a state that should be a lock for them lessens their chances to secure the Senate majority.

Yesterday, the Kansas Supreme Court heard arguments from attorneys for Democratic candidate Chad Taylor as to why the petition to remove his name from the November ballot should be granted. Under Kansas election law as Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) interpreted the applying statute, a candidate can only be removed from the ballot if he or she becomes incapacitated to the point of being incapable of performing the duties of the office to which they are seeking.

The seven-member Kansas Supreme Court has only six justices at present. The seventh, Nancy Moritz, exited her position upon receiving President Obama’s appointment to the 10th Federal District Court of Appeals. With a panel dominated by former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’ (D) appointed justices, the odds appear strong that Taylor will be granted the ability to exit the campaign.

On the heels of the Supreme Court hearing, Public Policy Polling released a survey (Sept. 11-14; 1,328 likely Kansas voters through Interactive Voice Response system) containing contingencies for both a contest between only Sen. Roberts and Independent Greg Orman, and one where Roberts, Orman, Taylor, and Libertarian Randall Batson are all tested.

In the head-to-head match – not an accurate depiction of the actual race because Batson, who will have a position on the November ballot, was not included – Orman jumps out to a full 10-point lead over Sen. Roberts, 46-36 percent. Obviously, an incumbent languishing in the mid-thirties in any legitimate public opinion poll is a clear warning sign of impending defeat. When all of the potential candidates are named, Orman still claims the advantage, holding a 41-34-6-4 percent lead over Sen. Roberts, Taylor, and Batson, respectively.

As predicted and expected, the Roberts operation is beginning to tear into Orman, labeling him an Obama liberal and publicizing his donor history of giving “thousands of dollars” not only to the president, but also to Hillary Clinton, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). The new Roberts campaign ad also criticizes Orman for failing to support repeal of the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare.

With Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) also in trouble in his race – this same PPP poll shows him trailing state House Minority Leader Paul Davis (D), 38-42 percent; and with him leading the Republican ticket in November the GOP turnout could be depressed. This is yet another negative factor that Roberts must overcome.

The Kansas race is now becoming a key to the entire Senate election cycle. In yet another campaign that could go down to the wire, whether Sen. Roberts wins or loses may very well determine if his party or the Democrats will hold the reins of power when the new Congress convenes in January.

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