A poll released Tuesday shows Democrat Paul Davis and Republican Gov. Sam Brownback in a close race for governor.
Davis leads Brownback 39 percent to 37 percent, according to the poll from Public Policy Polling, which surveyed 903 likely voters between Aug. 14 and 17. The poll has a margin of error of 3.3 percentage points.
A poll from Rasmussen Reports released last week showed Davis with a much more comfortable lead at 51 percent to 41 percent.
The Rasmussen poll omits Libertarian Keen Umbehr. The PPP poll has Umbehr netting 9 percent of voters. If Umbehr is taken out of the race, Davis’ numbers increase to 44 percent, with Brownback at 39 percent, suggesting that Umbehr is drawing away some voters from Davis.
“If Umbehr’s out, Davis’ numbers improve,” said Mark Peterson, a professor of political science at Washburn University. “Umbehr and Davis are fighting over the same blanket.”
The PPP poll isn’t particularly good news for either Brownback or Davis.
It shows that 55 percent of voters disapprove of Brownback’s performance as governor. Only 34 percent approve, which is just 1 point higher than approval for President Obama’s performance.
It also shows that Kansans aren’t sure about Davis. Only 32 percent said they had a favorable opinion of the Democrat; 26 percent said they had an unfavorable opinion. The biggest group, 41 percent, said they were not sure about him.
Chris Pumpelly, Davis’ spokesman, said he was not worried about the poll and that it shows Kansans are dissatisfied with Brownback.
The Brownback campaign would not comment on the poll.
Chapman Rackaway, a professor of political science at Fort Hays State University, tweeted that the poll shows the election could go either way.
“Upshot from new PPP KS poll: it’s volatile. Anyone who tells you they know who will win is overconfident. Next 90 days will be fraught,” Rackaway said on Twitter.
U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts also has low approval numbers in the poll: Only 27 percent approve of the Republican’s job performance, compared with 44 percent who disapprove.
Only 32 percent of likely voters say they plan to vote for Roberts. However, Roberts is still leading, because the rest of the vote is split by other candidates.
Democrat Chad Taylor has 25 percent, and independent Greg Orman has 23 percent. Seventeen percent of voters surveyed are undecided, and 3 percent favor Libertarian Randy Batson.
If it were a two-person race between Roberts and Orman, Orman would lead with 43 percent to Roberts’ 33 percent, according to the poll results.
A different poll from Rasmussen that omitted Orman and Batson showed Taylor 4 percentage points behind Roberts. Peterson said the PPP poll shows Orman and Taylor are canceling each other out, opening the door for Roberts to win without strong support.
“The thing that’s going to be really amazing, I think, is I don’t really see how either Taylor or Orman beats Roberts, so this is going to really be one of those situations that the state is going to end up electing somebody that hardly anybody wants in office,” he said.
The Orman campaign sent out a statement calling the poll proof that Democratic and Republican candidates are losing ground and Kansans are “sick and tired of the partisan stalemate.”
Peterson said Orman’s commercials, which show a tug of war between men wearing blue and red shirts without a winner, have attracted voters dissatisfied with incumbents.
“As a consequence, as part of this whole ‘anybody but the guys who’ve got the jobs now’ position that the Kansas public seems to be in, he’s attracting some attention,” Peterson said.
He said Orman might be able to gain momentum but still thinks Roberts holds the advantage if the Republicans are able to mobilize their base.
The general election is Nov. 4.