8 weeks to Election Day, anything is possible in Kansas. Three top-of-ticket Republican incumbents could win. Three top-of-ticket incumbent Republicans could lose. Or there could be a mix-and-match outcome. That’s according to the latest KSN-TV News Poll conducted by SurveyUSA. Complicating any analysis: the fates of the incumbent Republicans may be intertwined.
Let’s start with the contest that rocketed to national prominence last week, the fight for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Republican Pat Roberts. As of today, 09/08/14, about 7 in 10 Kansas likely voters are aware that Democrat Chad Taylor has withdrawn from the race, with a formal request that his name be taken off the ballot. About 6 in 10 Kansas likely voters are aware that Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a Republican in his own tight-fight for re-election (more on that in a moment), has inserted himself into the fray and refuses to remove Democrat Taylor from the ballot. That creates a nightmare for state and national party officials, for Kansas voters, and for public opinion pollsters.
At this hour, subject to possible lawsuits and back-room bargains which could further upend the race, Independent Greg Orman and Roberts are effectively tied, 37% for Orman, 36% for Roberts, 10% for Taylor, 6% for Libertarian Randall Batson. The exact wording of the question that SurveyUSA asked respondents is:“If there were an election for US Senate today, and Democrat Chad Taylor’s name still appeared on the ballot even though he no longer wants to run, and the other names on the ballot were Republican Pat Roberts, Independent Greg Orman, and Libertarian Randall Batson, who would you vote for?”
Orman gets 52% of the Democratic vote, 42% of the independent vote, and 26% of the Republican vote. Roberts holds 59% of the Republican base, and is backed by 11% of Democrats, and 16% of independents. Orman leads among the most educated voters and among the most affluent voters. The contest is effectively tied in Greater Wichita, and effectively tied in greater Kansas City KS. Orman has a slight lead in greater Topeka. Voters focused on the economy back Orman over Roberts 3:2. Voters focused on Obamacare back Roberts over Orman 2:1.
Of voters who tell SurveyUSA that they had planned to vote for Taylor prior to his withdrawal from the race, 43% today vote for Orman, 30% still vote for Taylor, 15% cross-over and vote for Roberts, 7% vote for Batson and 5% throw up their hands and don’t know yet what to do.
Kobach’s insertion into the Senate contest did nothing, at first blush, to help his own campaign for re-election. 2 weeks ago, KSN-TV and SurveyUSA had Kobach tied with Democratic challenger Jean Schodorf. Today, the contest is still within the theoretical margin of sampling error, but Schodorf now has a nominal 3-point advantage, 46% to 43%. Men don’t take kindly to Kobach’s interference. 2 weeks ago, Kobach had led by 10 among male likely voters, now by 3. And residents of greater Kansas City KS don’t take kindly to Kobach either. In that part of the state, Kobach had been tied with Schodorf, but today the Democrat Schodorf leads by 7. The contest is a jump ball that could go either way. It’s too early to tell whether Kobach will be written about, years from now, as a hero, who saved the US Senate for Republicans and got himself re-elected in the process, or as a goat, who sunk himself and the Republican Party with him.
Sitting on the sidelines, ostensibly minding his own business, is incumbent Republican Governor Sam Brownback. Brownback could fairly be accused of being, in a “wave-election” year when Republicans are expected to win statehouse and congressional contests coast-to-coast, the falling tide that is sinking all Kansas Republican boats. Brownback was already in trouble long before anyone was worried about Roberts and long before anyone outside of Kansas knew Kobach’s name. Now, Brownback is staring at basically the same “upside-down” numbers that he howled about when SurveyUSA released them 2 weeks ago. Today, Brownback is down 7 points to Democratic challenger Paul Davis. The Democratic ticket of Davis and Jill Docking gets 47% today, the Republican ticket of Brownback and Lt. Gov Jeff Colyer gets 40%. On 06/24/14, KSN and SurveyUSA had Brownback down by 6 points. On 07/23/14, Brownback trailed by 8 points. On 08/25/14, Brownback trailed by 8 points. And today, 09/08/14, Brownback trails by 7 points. Brownback holds 66% of the Republican base and 74% of the conservative vote. Brownback is down 22 points among independents and down 47 points among moderates. Brownback is down by 7 points in greater Wichita, down by 11 points in greater Kansas City KS, and down by 4 points in greater Topeka.
Cell-phone and home-phone respondents included in this research: SurveyUSA interviewed 825 adults from the state of Kansas 09/04/14 through 09/07/14. Of the adults, 723 were registered to vote. Of the registered voters, 555 were determined by SurveyUSA to be likely to vote in the 11/04/14 general election. This research was conducted using blended sample, mixed mode. Respondents reachable on a home telephone (71% of likely voters) were interviewed on their home telephones in the recorded voice of a professional announcer. Respondents not reachable on a home telephone (29% of likely voters) were shown a questionnaire on their smartphone, tablet or other electronic device. You must credit KSN-TV of Wichita KS if you publish, broadcast or cite these results in whole or part.