When Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor (D) announced that he was withdrawing from the US Senate race in Kansas in order to give better-performing Independent Greg Orman the opportunity to politically isolate vulnerable US Sen. Pat Roberts (R), the “what if” caucus sprung into action. Though we’ve had many twists and turns around this story during the past week, much speculation abounds as to exactly what will happen in a Roberts-Orman contest, and who would be most adversely affected by the Democratic nominee leaving the political battlefield.
Survey USA provides us our first glimpse into how the candidate field divides sans Taylor. The most definitive number prior to him expressing his desire to leave, a Public Policy Polling study that apparently contributed to Taylor understanding that he had little, if any, chance to win the Senate race, found Orman leading Sen. Roberts 43-33 percent. S-USA sees it differently.
At this moment, Taylor’s name will still appear on the Nov. 4 ballot. The Kansas secretary of state ruled shortly after the Democratic nominee’s desired withdrawal that Taylor’s name would remain on the ballot because Kansas law only allows a post-nomination change in candidate status if the individual does not have the physical or mental capacity to perform the duties of office, if elected.
Within this framework, S-USA posed their questions to 555 likely Kansas voters over the Sept. 4-7 period, immediately after Taylor publicized his decision. They find Orman leading Sen. Roberts only 37-36 percent. This appears to be a significant improvement for Roberts over what PPP found when surveying the field without Taylor. In this instance, however, Taylor’s name was included in the polling questionnaire because that is the way the ballot appears today. Though 71 percent of those sampled said they are aware that Taylor asked for his name to be removed, he still draws a full 10 percent of the vote. Libertarian candidate Randall Batson pulls six percent. Eleven percent claims to be undecided.
While the S-USA poll does not provide a clear picture of a head-to-head battle between Roberts and Orman, it again shows that Taylor’s presence does help the Republican incumbent. It remains to be seen if Taylor is allowed to exit. In any event, the Kansas Senate race is now a bona-fide competitive contest and will certainly impact the majority. Though the Democrats will not directly gain a seat, an Orman victory will cost the GOP a loss, thus helping to sustain the current majority.
Governor / Secretary of State
Survey USA also included the governor’s race on their questionnaire and again finds incumbent Republican Sam Brownback trailing. In an all too familiar result, state House Minority Leader Paul Davis (D) leads Brownback 47-40 percent. The glaring statistic is how the self-identified “moderates” break. According to this polling sample, Davis attracts 67 percent of the moderate vote versus just 20 percent for the governor. This number must change if Brownback is to reverse his fortunes.
The secretary of state’s race was also tested, considering incumbent Republican Kris Kobach is the one who enforced the Kansas law concerning Chad Taylor’s move to leave the Senate campaign. Here, too, the Democratic nominee has the advantage. Former state Sen. Jean Schodorf holds a 46-43 percent edge over Kobach, and 58 percent of those sampled know that the GOP Secretary of State is the individual denying Taylor the ability to exit the race.