Kansas Kaleidoscope

It’s becoming a cliche, but who’d a thunk Kansas would become one of the most interesting, and potentially even pivotal, midterm states?

I noted at Lunch Buffet that Democrat Chad Taylor appears likely to succeed in his effort to remove his name from the November ballot, clearing the way for independent Greg Orman to take down vulnerable GOP incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts. PPP has a new Kansas survey out showing that Orman’s doing well either way. In a three-way race (plus Libertarian Randall Batson) Orman leads Roberts 41/34 (with Taylor at 6%) among LVs. Take Taylor out of the equation and Orman’s lead bumps up to 46/36. Roberts’ job approval/disapproval rating is a toxic 29/46.

The best thing the incumbent has going for him is a finding that 49% of Kansas LVs want Republicans to control the Senate. So GOPers in Kansas may spend as much time as Democrats elsewhere explaining the stakes of this election.

But there’s some evidence that what’s going on in KS in 2014 is a self-conscious backlash among moderate Republicans who know exactly what they are doing. That’s evident in the governor’s race, where PPP has Democrat Paul Davis leading incumbent Gov. Sam Brownback 42/38:

The big story in Kansas right now is the revolt of the moderate Republicans. We find that 15% of Kansans identify themselves as moderate Republicans. They’re supporting Davis over Brownback 56/28, and they’re supporting Orman over Roberts 54/29. That support for Democrats from centrist GOP voters is driving most of both Davis and Orman’s current leads.

Even if Republicans seize the Senate anyway, victories by Orman and Davis would have a significant impact by showing that it is indeed possible to lose even the most Republican states if GOP officials spend too much time pandering to extremists, whether it’s defensive (as in Roberts’ case) or offensive (in both sense of the words in Brownback’s case). So it all bears close watching, particularly as Republicans pour money and toxic ad material into the Sunflower State.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.