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Roberts falls further behind in Kansas

Things weren't looking good for the Republican incumbent in Kansas. Today, they're looking slightly worse.
U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts talks to the media after making his victory speech at an election watch party, Aug. 5, 2014, in Overland Park, Kan.
U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts talks to the media after making his victory speech at an election watch party, Aug. 5, 2014, in Overland Park, Kan.
After Chad Taylor (D) ended his U.S. Senate campaign in Kansas, no one could say with certainty exactly what would happen to the overall dynamic. It looked like bad news for incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts (R), who benefited from his opponents split between Taylor and Independent Greg Orman, but we'd need to see more data.
And now that data is coming in.
The first poll, taken shortly after Taylor's announcement, was a SurveyUSA poll commissioned by local station KSN-TV, and it showed Orman up by one over Roberts, 37% to 36%. This was obviously cause for alarm in Republican circles, but a one-point margin is hardly grounds for panic.
These new figures, however, are cause for panic.

Independent Greg Orman leads Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Ks.), 41 percent to 34 percent, according to a poll released to HuffPost by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling. Six percent said they'd still vote for Democrat Chad Taylor, who has announced he's leaving the race, but whose name may remain on the ballot pending a lawsuit being heard Tuesday. Another 4 percent opted for libertarian Randall Batson, with the remaining 15 percent undecided. The PPP results find Roberts deeply unpopular, with a -17 net job approval rating among all voters, and only modestly positive numbers even among his Republican base. Orman, in contrast, has a +18 net favorable rating, with Democrats and independents giving him even stronger ratings, and Republicans about evenly split.

A seven-point lead is not insurmountable -- and this is obviously just one poll -- but there is no good news here for Republicans. Roberts is unpopular; Orman is popular. Roberts trails by seven, and that's with the Democrat still getting 6 percent despite no longer running. Those voters are likely to keep shifting to Orman, especially as Taylor fights to get his name off the ballot.
Of course, Roberts isn't done yet. The senator has returned to the state he represents -- a novel idea, to be sure -- and Beltway Republicans have dispatched experienced operatives to try and save his career.
Their plan is off to a rough start.
Dave Weigel took a closer look yesterday at Team Roberts' curious new television ad, the first since the recent campaign shake-up.

On its face, there's nothing remarkable about this ad for Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts. You've got your B-roll of the senators making human contact with people who look busy. You've got your soundtrack that sounds like a Coldplay demo track. Sure, as Dave Helling points out, the ad's opening line about how "Kansans are struggling" seems to contradict Gov. Sam Brownback's sunshine-and-lollipops, prosperity-around-the-corner re-election bid. But it doesn't contradict with Brownback's own theory of his unpopularity, which is that "a lot of people are so irritated at what the president is doing, they just, they want somebody to throw a brick."  [...] No, the baffling thing about this ad is that it tells the heroic story of the National Bio and Agro-defense Facility and how it came to Kansas.

To be sure, Roberts helped bring the National Bio and Agro-defense Facility to Kansas about seven years ago, but this year, the Republican senator voted against the bill that would have funded the project. He did so in order to bolster his conservative bona fides in advance of a GOP primary.
In effect, Roberts' new ad tells voters, "Look at this good thing I did seven years ago, which I grudgingly opposed for political reasons this year."
The senator's new team of operatives will have to do better.
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