For Kansas Republicans, most notably Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R), the last several weeks have been devoted to a specific goal: creating a multi-candidate U.S. Senate race to help improve Sen. Pat Roberts’ (R) odds. As of yesterday, those efforts have run their course.
A few weeks ago, when Democrat Chad Taylor announced the termination of his campaign, creating a head-to-head match-up pitting Roberts and Greg Orman (I), Kobach and his party tried to force Taylor to keep his name on the statewide ballot. The ensuing controversy went to the Kansas Supreme Court, which ruled that Taylor’s name must be removed.
And while that seemingly ended the legal fight, Kobach had other ideas: he then demanded that Kansas Democrats pick a replacement candidate. This, too, led to a court fight, and as Dave Helling reported, the Republican litigation again came up short.
A three-judge panel in Topeka ruled Wednesday that Kansas Democrats need not nominate a candidate for the 2014 Senate race.The ruling is expected to help independent Senate candidate Greg Orman’s campaign against incumbent Republican Sen. Pat Roberts.
The obvious question is, “Won’t Kobach and the GOP just appeal this and keep the fight going?” He might try, but with Election Day now just 33 days away, there are some practical and logistical problems: Kansas has to send its ballots to be printed. Indeed, the deadline for completing the ballot was supposed to be yesterday. There was reportedly some chatter that Kobach’s office might push it to today, but in either case, there simply isn’t time for more pointless legal wrangling and emergency appeals.
Which suggests the process has run its course; Pat Roberts (R) will face Greg Orman (I). This obviously makes Republicans nervous from Wichita to Washington, and new evidence suggests those fears are well grounded.
The latest USA Today/Suffolk University poll was released yesterday afternoon, and it found Orman leading the incumbent by five points, 46% to 41%. This is, of course, just one poll, but since the Democrat dropped out last month, there have been five statewide polls in Kansas, the results of which have been publicly released – Orman has led in four of them, and the other was conducted by Fox News.*
Also note, the same USA Today/Suffolk poll found that President Obama’s approval rating in Kansas, one of the nation’s ruby-red states, stands at just 36%. Pat Roberts’ approval rating with his constituents? Just 37%.
It’s numbers like these that cause state GOP officials like Kobach to look for creative ways to tilt the playing field in Roberts’ favor, but as things stand this morning, they appear to be out of options.
* Correction/Clarification: It turns out, in that Fox News poll, Roberts’ lead was in a hypothetical three-way match-up. In a head-to-head race, Fox News’ poll also found Roberts trailing Orman. Or put another way, there have been five statewide polls in Kansas since it became a two-person race, and all five show the independent candidate leading. The margins range from 1 to 7 percentage points, depending on the survey.