A new poll of the Kansas senate race has Republican incumbent Pat Roberts leading Independent candidate Greg Orman, a surprising reversal from recent surveys which have showed Roberts trailing heavily.
Roberts leads Orman, a Kansas City-area businessman, 49 to 48, according to a CNN/ORC poll, taken between Oct. 2 and Oct. 6 of 687 likely voters.
According to CNN, the poll found an uptick in Roberts’ favorability rating compared to earlier polls. Fifty percent of respondents rated Roberts favorably; 45 percent viewed him unfavorably. Orman’s favorability is at 48 percent with 33 percent holding an unfavorable view of the 45-year-old. Seventeen percent have not made up their mind on Orman, according to the poll.
The Roberts camp is undoubtedly pleased by the new survey, which comes after a series of bad numbers for the 78-year-old Republican.
A recent NBC/Marist poll had Orman leading Roberts 48 to 38. A KSN/SurveyUSA poll released Tuesday had Orman leading Roberts 47 to 42.
Once considered an easy victory for Roberts in conservative Kansas, the race was shaken up when Democratic nominee Chad Taylor announced last month that he was dropping out of the race. National Democrats such as Missouri U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill intervened to convince Taylor to drop out of the race. Orman, a well-financed multi-millionaire, was seen as having a better chance of unseating Roberts, who is seeking his fourth term.
In television ads and on the stump, Roberts has hammered Orman relentlessly on several fronts, including the challenger’s past political donations to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and a 2008 vote for Obama. Roberts has used that to paint Orman as a liberal Democrat posing as an Independent. To further support that claim, Roberts has cited Orman’s 2008 Senate bid when he briefly ran against Roberts as a Democrat.
For his part, Orman has maintained a steady message as a centrist voice and “problem solver” who will challenge the leadership of both parties. He has said that he will support neither Reid nor Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to lead the Senate.
Orman has not said which party he will caucus with if elected, saying only that he will support whichever party has a clear majority. At the same time he has said that he would consider switching allegiances down the road.
Roberts has jumped on that to claim that Orman has “no backbone.”
The pair squared off in a debate on Wednesday. Roberts used the platform to reiterate his claim that a vote for Orman is a vote for Reid and Obama. The road to a Republican senate majority “runs through Kansas,” he said.
The race has taken on significant national importance as the GOP hopes to pick up the six seats it needs to capture a majority of the upper chamber. According to the website FiveThirtyEight, which tracks elections, if Roberts were considered a sure win in Kansas, the GOP would have a 66 percent chance of re-gaining the Senate. If Orman is the favorite, the GOP’s chances of taking back the Senate fall to 57 percent.
On Thursday, Roberts will kick off a statewide bus tour in Wichita where Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz is slated to appear.