On Wednesday afternoon, I composed and published a post asking why a significant number of Kansas Republicans were apparently – based on a number of polls and the crosstabs from the latest Survey USA survey – backing Democrat-turned-independent Greg Orman over incumbent GOP Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) when control of the U.S. Senate is on the line.
Survey USA showed that Roberts had secured the support of only 66 percent of the GOP voters in his state. Of the 75 percent of Kansas voters who describe themselves as conservatives, nearly one-fifth were planning to back Orman, despite his center-left positions and the likelihood that he would caucus with Democrats in the upper chamber despite his assurances to the contrary.
The minute that post was published, it was already obsolete. On Wednesday, two polls of the Kansas Senate landscape appeared to show those alienated conservative voters abandoning Orman and returning “home” to the incumbent Republican.
A CNN/ORC poll released late Wednesday showed Roberts taking his first lead in any poll against Orman since mid-September. With 49 to 48 percent, Robert’s lead is statistically negligible. That poll did, however, have some good news for him when it comes to regaining the support of his disaffected base. CNN/ORC showed Roberts retaining the support of 84 percent of the state’s Republicans and 80 percent of conservative voters.
While Roberts is losing independents and moderates by more than 2-to-1 to Orman, he is only failing to retain 15 percent of the GOP vote – in Kansas, a state which has only ever sent Republicans to the Senate since 1932, that’s enough to seal the deal.
CNN/ORC could be dismissed as an outlier; in the seven polls taken since mid-September, Orman has lead or tied Roberts in all of them. Except CNN/ORC’s findings were corroborated by a Fox News poll of the state which also found Roberts regaining the lead over his center-left opponent, and it’s a big one.
With 44 to 39 percent, Fox’s latest survey gave Roberts the biggest polling lead of the season. Similar to CNN/ORC, Fox found Roberts only shedding 16 percent of the Republican vote and securing the support of 73 percent of GOP voters.
Fox’s survey showed a full 19 percent of likely Kansas voters either do not know who they are voting for, do not plan to vote at all in the Senate race, or support minor candidates. That is a lot of room for fluidity to return to this race, but these two polls seem to suggest that Roberts is making a bit of a comeback at just the right time.
There is no doubt that the Kansas Senate race will come down to the wire. Roberts remains a deeply unpopular figure, and it is unlikely that he will receive the kind of support from the state’s conservative electorate that would yield a blowout on election night. That said, it seems as though the Sunflower State’s GOP voters are willing to hold their nose and send Roberts back to Washington, if only to ensure Democrats are consigned to the minority.