If you haven’t been paying close attention to the Senate race in Kansas, you could be forgiven for believing that Democrat-turned-independent Greg Orman is genuine in his insistence that he will be a true centrist if he is sent to the Senate by Sunflower State voters.
Given the lengths to which Democratic groups have gone to stealthily support Orman’s candidacy, Republicans who turn out to vote Orman are likely doing so at this point out of an all-consuming hatred for the unpopular incumbent, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS). That’s forgivable, but it is not particularly rational – particularly if those Republican voters also hope to relegate Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) to the minority in the 115th Congress.
Those Republicans hoping against hope that Orman can be taken at his word that he will caucus with the party that receives a majority of seats in tonight’s midterm elections were disabused of this faith-based conviction when Vice President Joe Biden appeared on a Connecticut radio station on Tuesday.
“We have a chance of picking up, you know, an independent who will be with us in the state of Kansas,” the vice president said.
He added that the Democrats would win in a slew of races in which they are currently not favored, resulting in a 52-seat Democratic majority at the end of the night.
A charitable interpretation of Biden’s remarks would allow that he may have been simply noting that Orman would caucus with Democrats who, based on his predictions, would be in the majority. Other election forecasters have, however, predicted that Orman would be likely to caucus with Democrats regardless of the outcome of tonight’s races.
“Our assumption is that there’s a 75 percent chance Orman will caucus with the Democrats should that situation arise,” wrote FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver. “This is similar to the assumption we made for King two years ago.”
Like King, Orman rates as left of center by the various ideology measures we track. His stated policy positions are similar to those of a moderate, red-state Democrat; he’s said he believes “in Second Amendment rights of Americans to keep and bear arms,” but he also advocates an amnesty program for undocumented immigrants and supports abortion rights. Orman was formerly a member of the Democratic Party, having run briefly for Senate as a Democrat in 2008. Most of his campaign contributions have been to Democrats, although he also gave to Scott Brown, the moderate Republican Senate candidate, in 2010. And Taylor, the Democrat, is seeking to leave the campaign to clear the way for him.
If you didn’t know Orman would serve as a Democratic ally in the Senate before, you have no excuse now. The question becomes, is conservatives’ bitter distaste for establishment Republicans so great that it leads many to vote Democrat?