Both U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts and Gov. Sam Brownback are trailing their challengers by 5 points with four weeks to go before the Nov. 4 election, according to a KSN News Poll.
The poll, which was conducted by SurveyUSA between Oct. 2 and 5, shows strikingly similar results for the races for U.S. Senate and governor.
Independent Greg Orman leads Roberts, the incumbent Republican, 47 to 42 percent now that there is no Democratic candidate in the race for Senate. Libertarian Randall Batson drew 4 percent of respondents; 7 percent remain undecided in the race that could help decide the balance of power in the Senate.
Meanwhile, Democrat Paul Davis leads Republican Brownback 47 to 42 percent in the governor’s race. Libertarian Keen Umbehr drew 4 percent of respondents, and 7 percent remain undecided.
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The poll of 549 likely voters has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percentage points, so both races could swing either way.
Brownback’s numbers have increased by 2 points since SurveyUSA’s last poll, while Davis’ numbers have remained flat.
Both Orman and Davis are getting support from 27 percent of Republicans, with the GOP incumbents at 66 percent among their own party, according to the poll.
Moderates are estimated to make up about one-third of the Republican Party in Kansas, and this poll suggests they’re embracing the challengers in the two races at the top of ticket, both of whom have struck a centrist tone, said Bob Beatty, a professor of political science at Washburn University.
“It makes some sense that we would see similar polling numbers, because the Democrats, they’re going to go to Orman, and the big question for Roberts is whether he can grab back some of those Republicans,” Beatty said.
Roberts led Orman by 1 point in KSN and SurveyUSA’s previous poll, which still included Democrat Chad Taylor. Taylor withdrew from the race last month, and two court rulings have determined that no Democrat need appear on the ballot, boosting Orman’s numbers as Democrats shift their support to the independent.
“The alarm bells in the Roberts camp went off a few weeks ago and have not stopped clanging,” Beatty said.
Roberts has tried to shore up support among the Republican base in recent weeks, but that could mean conceding the moderate faction to Orman, Beatty said.
Several recent polls show Orman leading. Jim Jonas, Orman’s campaign manager, said Kansans are flocking to the Olathe businessman because they want someone “who will solve problems, not play the same tired political games.”
Roberts’ campaign responded to the poll by reasserting its claim that Orman is a Democrat in disguise. “We are confident that on Election Day, the people of Kansas will reject Greg Orman as the Obama-Reid Democrat he is,” said campaign manager Corry Bliss.
The two top issues among voters in the governor’s race are education funding and tax rates, according to the poll. Davis holds a 50-point advantage among voters who say education funding is their top issue, while Brownback holds a 31-point advantage among those who cite tax rates.
“It’s starting to look like the issues are getting pretty solidified. It’s probably locked in, those types of voters on those issues, and that means the rest of this election is going to be more about character issues,” Beatty said.
Davis spokesman Chris Pumpelly said Davis is “focused on the priorities important to most Kansans: strong schools, proven methods of job creation, commonsense solutions and bipartisan cooperation.”
“SurveyUSA has a history of inaccurate polling, and this is more of the same,” said John Milburn, the communications director for the Brownback campaign. SurveyUSA correctly predicted Brownback’s victory in 2010.
Davis leads among women in the poll, while the candidates are deadlocked among men.
Brownback and Roberts lead in the greater Wichita area by 13 and 17 points, respectively. But each trails in the Kansas City and Topeka areas by double digits.
Secretary of State Kris Kobach has rebounded from SurveyUSA’s last poll, which showed him trailing Democrat Jean Schodorf, despite two very public losses in court. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled that Taylor’s name should be removed from the ballot, and a Shawnee County court ruled that Democrats did not need to name a replacement. Kobach was the defendant in the first case, and a motion to intervene he made in the second case was thrown out of court.
Kobach leads Schodorf 48 to 43 percent, with the rest undecided, according to the poll.
“That one’s a head scratcher,” Beatty said. He said Kobach lost support among moderate Republicans during the Taylor controversy, and that would have been the time for Schodorf to run TV and radio ads to introduce herself as an alternative.
“Kobach’s lead has gone back up to where it had been from before the Taylor controversy, so at least from the polling, it looks like there might’ve been a missed opportunity there,” Beatty said.