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Court clears way for two-man race in Kansas

The Kansas Supreme Court appears to have made conditions a little harder for Republicans trying to take control of the U.S. Senate.
U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts makes his victory speech at a Johnson County Republican's election watch party Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014, in Overland Park, Kan. (Photo by Charlie Riedel/AP)
U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts makes his victory speech at a Johnson County Republican's election watch party Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014, in Overland Park, Kan.
In Kansas' amazing U.S. Senate race, the stage was set for the Kansas Supreme Court to have the final say. Chad Taylor (D) terminated his campaign weeks ago and wants off the ballot; brazenly partisan Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) hopes to boost incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts (R) by forcing Taylor to stay on the ballot.
As expected, the state court ruled late yesterday in Taylor's favor.

The Kansas Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a Democratic Senate candidate's name be removed from the ballot ahead of November's election. [...] Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach ... ruled that Taylor couldn’t withdraw his name from the ballot, citing a state law that requires candidates to be “incapable” of serving if they wish to withdraw from a race. The court settled the matter Thursday. “[Kobach] shall not include Taylor’s name on any ballots for the office of United States Senate for the general election on November 4, 2014,” Judge Michael J. Malone wrote to conclude his ruling.

The entirety of the ruling, which featured no dissent, is online here (pdf).  There is no additional appeal.
The panic within GOP circles is understandable. Polls show Roberts, an unpopular, longtime incumbent, with a vastly better chance of success if his opposition is divided between Taylor and Independent Greg Orman. With Taylor out, Orman is fairly well positioned to win the seat.
But the story isn't done just yet. Secretary of State Kobach, who said the matter had to be resolved by last night in order to prepare state ballots, magically discovered* late yesterday that he could extend the deadline another eight days. To what end? As the Republican official sees it, Kansas Democrats can now be required to choose a replacement candidate to take Taylor's slot on the ballot.
Kobach really isn't making much of an effort to conceal his partisan agenda here. That said, this latest maneuver probably won't work, either.
The simple fact remains that the Kansas Secretary of State can't simply order a political party to hold some kind of nominating convention -- within eight days -- and choose a candidate against the party's will. It's not clear how Kobach convinced himself he has that kind of authority.
For that matter, Kobach probably needs to explain why he swore up and down, in court documents and in public, that ballots had to be finalized by Sept. 18, only to discover after he lost his case that he can postpone the deadline until Sept. 27.
In case it's not obvious, the significance of this fight in Kansas may very well dictate which party controls the Senate in 2015 and 2016. Orman has not said which party he'd caucus with if elected, but in a narrowly divided chamber, the Kansas Independent may be in the enviable position of choosing the next Majority Leader.
And given the way Republicans are eagerly trying to destroy him, it might be tough for GOP officials to tell Orman in November, "Never mind all that stuff we said; come join our team."
Election-law expert Rick Hasen wrote a helpful piece on this last night, and if you missed it, Rachel's segment is well worth watching.
* Kobach sought and apparently received a waiver from federal officials to delay ballots for Americans overseas.