According to the first poll conducted after a major upheaval last week in the Kansas U.S. senate race, Independent candidate Greg Orman would beat Republican incumbent Pat Roberts if the election were held today.
The race attracted the national spotlight last week when Democratic nominee Chad Taylor announced that he was taking his name off the ballot. Complicating matters further, Secretary of State Kris Kobach said that Taylor could not legally do that.
The poll, conducted by SurveyUSA for KSN-TV, showed that if the election were held now with Taylor’s name still on the ballot, Orman would receive 37 percent of the vote, Roberts 36 percent, Taylor 10 percent and a libertarian candidate six percent.
The previous SurveyUSA poll, conducted between Aug. 20 and Aug. 23 had Roberts with 37 percent of the vote, Taylor receiving 32 percent and Orman at 20 percent.
Roberts’ weakness stems from a brutal GOP primary campaign against tea party-backed Milton Wolf. Wolf’s campaign largely centered on a New York Times report that called Roberts’ Kansas residency into question, and the issue appears to have resonated with the electorate.
For his part, Orman is well-funded. The Kansas City-area businessman has blitzed the Kansas airwaves with simple TV ads conveying a centrist message and blaming both political parties for gridlock in Washington.
According to the KSN/SurveyUSA poll, which was taken of 555 likely voters between Sept. 4 and Sept. 7, Orman will scoop up a large portion of Taylor’s supporters. Forty-three percent of those who had planned to vote for Taylor will switch to the Independent. Thirty percent will stick with Taylor while 15 percent will switch parties to Roberts.
The KSN/SurveyUSA poll shows Orman receiving 52 percent of the Democratic vote, 42 percent of the Independent vote and 26 percent of the Republican vote.
Roberts is backed by 59 percent of Republicans, 16 percent of Independents and 11 percent of Democrats. (RELATED: In First Debate, Pat Roberts Goes Aggressive)
Roberts, who fired his longtime campaign manager last week after the Taylor announcement, made his new campaign approach clear at a debate on Saturday. The 78-year-old slammed Orman as a liberal in disguise and hounded him relentlessly for his past campaign contributions to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and his 2008 vote for Barack Obama. (RELATED: Pat Roberts’ Democratic Challenger Quits)
Electing Orman will greatly increase the odds that Reid will remain Majority Leader, keeping Congress in gridlock, Roberts argued. He also raised a burning question that will likely be hashed out up until election day – which party will Orman caucus with if elected?
Orman, 45, has largely remained coy, saying that he will caucus with whichever party has a “clear majority” in the Senate. According to a New York Times model released Sunday, the GOP has a 61 percent chance of becoming the majority.