Wednesday, September 17, 2014

What If Senate Control Comes Down To Kansas?

The latest RCP Senate polling now projects Republicans with 50 seats next year and Democrats with 49, The 50th seat? Well if the polling holds, that seat would be filled by Greg Orman, the Independent from Kansas who, thanks to Democrat Chad Taylor dropping out, is now the favorite to defeat Republican Pat Roberts. Secretary of State Kris Kobach can keep Taylor on the ballot all he wants, he can't compel the people of Kansas to vote for him.

Democrats are naturally all giddy at the prospects of knocking off a Red state and possibly depriving the GOP of gaining control of the Senate for the third election year in a row. There's just one teensy weensy problem. No one knows which party Greg Orman will caucus with should he win. It might be that Orman will be so put off by the attack ads that Roberts is running against him that he will caucus with the Democrats out of spite. It's also possible that Orman will caucus with the Republicans, which would give the GOP ostensibly a 51 seat majority.

Orman isn't letting on which way he'll go, which, in a state as red as Kansas, is probably a pretty good strategy. He says he'll caucus with whichever party holds the majority, but almost all the projections I've seen over the last week or so, are pointing to a tie at best for the Democrats. Like it or not, Orman is going to end up breaking someone's heart this fall.

The smart money is on Orman leaning blue. Like Angus King of Maine, he would be far more effective as a senator in a party that would welcome his voice. He would also be in a far better position to get what he wants from Harry Reid than he would from Mitch McConnell. [Spoiler alert, I'm predicting ole Mitch holds his seat in November, but then you probably already figured that out by reading the polls in Kentucky.]

Of course, the opposite could also be true. Despite all the independent talk, Orman is what some people used to refer to as old-school Republican; you know from the days when the GOP wasn't filled with escapees from an insane asylum. If you look closely at his positions, they more closely align with the Republican Party of, say, 15 years ago than today's Democratic Party.

He could conclude, and not without some justification, that his voice would be far more effective in helping lead the Republican Party back to its center-right roots, especially if his vote could be the all-important tie-breaker. I know it's hard for some to remember, but there was a time when people like Bob Dole were considered the heart and soul of the GOP. But that was before the rise of the Tea Party and before people like Ted Cruz and Rand Paul became the new kids on the block. One cannot overstate enough the growing fissure between both wings of this party; it's one of the primary reasons why Sam Brownback is trailing in the polls. Disaffected moderate Republicans are abandoning him for Democrat Paul Davis.

All of this makes for what will likely go down as the most suspenseful Senate election in recent memory. And to think, only a couple of weeks ago, Kansas wasn't even on the board.

This November, it could well become ground zero.


Prof. Walter Jameson said...


Unfortunately, I don't see this scenario taking place in Kansas at all. Also, I don't see any flips on the senate map to favor Democrats in this upcoming election. At this point, the only real "nail biter" that I see is in North Carolina. And that would only be a maintain for Democrats. So, the outlook does not appear to be good for the "D" side of the aisle. The only real question is how bad will it be. I'm thinking anywhere from five to eight seats, with a skew to the higher side of that range.

Let's take a brief look at Kansas; what's the matter with it, some might ask. Well, voter sentiment in the state is running very strong against the president. In 2012, the state voted overwhelmingly for Romney (60%), and is not inclined to put anyone into office who is viewed as a potential ally of the president. Kansas is a state that is among the reddest of the red, and has a well established GOP operation state-wide. Heck, by election day they'll have this Independent candidate branded as an open border, 2nd Amendment-repealing communist sympathizer in disguise. The only thing that would put the state in play would be a major scandal of some sort affecting the GOP candidate. Other than that, count this one as a maintain "R".

Thank you for the opportunity to respond.

Peter Fegan said...

By now you've heard that the Kansas Supreme Court has ruled that Taylor's name does not have to remain on the ballot. I fully expect that Orman will open up a substantial lead in this race.

To your point about Obama's popularity, you're forgetting that GOP approval is even lower. In fact, the biggest problem Roberts has in Kansas is the low popularity of Sam Brownback.

I still think that the odds of Dems holding serve are even money.