Independent Greg Orman leads U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts in the race for U.S. Senate, according to a new poll from Public Policy Polling.
Orman led the incumbent Republican 41 percent to 34 percent in the poll, which has a margin of error of 2.7 percentage points.
The poll showed that 29 percent of respondents approve of Roberts’ job performance, while 46 percent disapprove.
“The Kansas voter seems to be in a very strong mood of change,” said Chapman Rackaway, a professor of political science at Fort Hays State University. “The residency issue coupled with his long tenure in D.C. are a pretty massive threat (to Roberts’ re-election).”
Roberts has faced scrutiny for spending most of the year at a home in Alexandria, Va., a suburb of Washington. The poll showed that 63 percent of respondents think Roberts spends too little time in Kansas.
The Orman campaign said the poll is evidence that voters think Roberts has grown out of touch with the concerns of Kansans.
“Poll after poll shows Kansans know Senator Roberts is out of touch and part of the broken system in Washington,” Jim Jonas, Orman’s campaign manager, said in a statement. “Voters from across the political spectrum have responded to Independent Greg Orman because he is a successful businessman who wants to solve problems and hold Washington accountable.”
Roberts’ campaign manager, Corry Bliss, questioned the credibility of the PPP poll, noting the firm is considered to be Democratic-leaning.
“This PPP poll is a liberal Democrat smokescreen designed to protect the national Democrats’ handpicked liberal candidate, Greg Orman,” Bliss said in an e-mail. “Claire McCaskill and the national Democrats have attempted to clear the way for Orman, and now the Democrat party’s pocket pollster is vainly trying to fool Kansas voters.”
Rackaway, a former Republican strategist, acknowledged the firm’s liberal reputation but said that PPP’s polling was as reliable as any others done on the race.
A large chunk of respondents – 42 percent – said they were unsure whether they have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of Orman, an Olathe businessman. Nineteen percent had an unfavorable opinion of him.
Democrat Chad Taylor pulled in 6 percent of the response despite terminating his campaign and announcing his withdrawal from the race. He remains on the ballot pending a decision from the state Supreme Court. Libertarian Randall Batson had 4 percent of the vote in the poll.
Republicans see Taylor’s withdrawal as an attempt by Democrats to boost Orman’s candidacy in order to unseat Roberts in a year that many analysts predict Republicans can take control of the Senate.
The poll also showed Gov. Sam Brownback trailing his challenger in the governor’s race.
House Minority Leader Paul Davis led Brownback 42 percent to 38 percent, according to the poll, which was conducted between Sept. 11 and 14 among 1,328 likely voters.
Libertarian Keen Umbehr was drawing 7 percent of the vote, while 14 percent of respondents remain undecided.
Brownback’s job approval rating of 36 percent in the poll was only slightly better than Obama’s at 33 percent.
Although 38 percent of respondents have a favorable opinion of Davis, 35 percent are still unsure and the rest have a negative opinion of the Lawrence Democrat.
The Brownback campaign wouldn’t comment on the poll, which is the latest in a series that shows the governor trailing. Last month the campaign took the unusual step of releasing an internal poll that showed the governor leading Davis by 1 percentage point, but with a 4 percentage point margin of error, in order to hit back against the narrative that Davis is pulling ahead.
Public Policy Polling showed Davis leading Brownback 39 percent to 37 percent in August, so this latest poll would suggest a slight increase for Davis.
“Kansans are clearly upset about the direction Sam Brownback is taking our state,” said Chris Pumpelly, spokesman for the Davis campaign, in response to the poll.
Rackaway said the governor’s race remains tight.
“I’m still not convinced that anyone has unbreakable momentum, or even clear momentum, at this point,” he said.
Secretary of State Kris Kobach is also facing a tough re-election challenge. Kobach leads Wichita Democrat Jean Schodorf 43 percent to 42 percent in the poll, a lead that falls within the margin of error.
Kobach made the decision to keep Taylor on the ballot in the Senate race and has been at the center of the ensuing court battle, which some analysts say has hurt the Republican incumbent in the polls.