A Journal-World poll shows a virtual dead-heat in Tuesday's Republican primary for the U.S. Senate seat formerly held by Bob Dole.
Smiling broadly, U.S. Rep. Sam Brownback took a pair of scissors and snipped a yellow ribbon Thursday, opening Douglas County's Republican Party headquarters.
But the ribbon isn't all he's cut.
A new Journal-World poll shows Brownback has also trimmed the large lead held a month ago by new U.S. Sen. Sheila Frahm in the Republican primary race for Bob Dole's former U.S. Senate seat.
"I'm ecstatic about it," Brownback said. "The last time, I'm down 23 points and now I'm up 2 points."
The poll, conducted for the Journal-World and several other media outlets in Kansas by Mason-Dixon Political Media Research Inc., Washington, D.C., showed Brownback had a 43 percent to 41 percent lead over Frahm, with 16 percent of Republicans remaining undecided.
Brownback's lead is statistically insignificant; the poll's margin of error is plus or minus 5 percentage points.
"It's a statistical dead heat," said Ken Frahm, Sheila Frahm's husband, who was also at the opening of the local GOP offices at 1120 E. 23rd.
"We're pleased that it's showing us to be in it and it's going to be real close," Frahm said.
The poll, which surveyed 834 Kansans planning to vote in Tuesday's primary, was taken between Monday and Wednesday.
After being appointed to fill Dole's Senate seat, Frahm led Brownback 47 percent to 24 percent -- a 23-point lead that has evaporated in the last month.
Brownback's television ads are the key, said Allan Cigler, a Kansas University professor of government and politics.
"There has also been independent spending against Frahm by groups like the term limits organization ," Cigler said.
Cigler also said Frahm hasn't come out strongly with her own voice. She has relied on endorsements from Gov. Bill Graves and U.S. Sen. Nancy Kassebaum, R-Kan.
"I think people have developed the image that she is the choice of the establishment, but they are uneasy who she is," Cigler said. "She has not taken advantage of her position as a U.S. senator to get much free media."
Stylistically, Brownback is coming across as the aggressive candidate who wants to be senator, which has helped his image, Cigler said.
Frahm "has been very, very passive in this campaign, and that has hurt her," Cigler said. "Sheila Frahm better do something over the next week or she's in a lot of difficulty."
Mason-Dixon pollster Del Ali predicted that a low voter turnout on Tuesday will help Brownback.
"Turnout will determine it all," Ali said.
The poll showed two thirds of the Republican voters who support the Christian Coalition will vote for Brownback, while 22 percent support Frahm.
"Religious conservatives are motivated to show up and vote," Ali said.
Brownback has moved up in the poll from a month ago because he has energized his base and Frahm hasn't energized hers, Ali said, noting that the endorsements Frahm has received from Graves and Kassebaum haven't particularly helped her.
"Endorsements, I really think they're overrated," Ali said.
Docking leads Finney
The J-W poll also showed that in the Democratic primary for the Dole seat, Jill Docking "is all but certain" to beat former Gov. Joan Finney, Ali said.
Docking holds a 47 percent to 28 percent lead over Mrs. Finney. The lead could widen by Tuesday, Ali said.
He said that Mrs. Finney, who had a stormy relationship with Democrats and Republicans alike in the Legislature, has a high unfavorable name recognition among Democratic voters. That, in turn, has helped Docking.
"It was a dead heat a month ago," Ali said. "I think more Democrats know who Docking is and she is considered a safe alternative to Finney."
Cigler said Finney has run a low-budget, low-profile campaign. What the poll results show is her core base of support, he said.
"I thought Finney's support a month ago was as good as it was going to get," Cigler said. "Docking was an unknown, and the more exposure there has been to her, people were impressed."
Miller, the GOP state chairman, noted the J-W poll shows either Brownback or Frahm would beat Docking in the Nov. 5 general election.
However, Ali said that if Brownback wins the primary, there could be some Republican crossover votes in the general election to Docking.
"Brownback in the general could be seen as too extreme for Kansas, and Docking would have a very legitimate shot," Ali said. "If Frahm gets by, she would be a comfortable favorite against Docking."
Democrats could be helped in November by the divisiveness of the Republican primary.
"I actually think the Democrats have a shot if Brownback is the nominee," Cigler said. "Docking is a liberal but has the potential of drawing defectors from the Republican Party who think Brownback is a little too extreme."
Roberts widens gap
In the Senate race to succeed Kassebaum, Ali picks U.S. Rep. Pat Roberts to win the four-way Republican primary.
The poll shows that Roberts has gained significant strength in the past month over Democratic State Treasurer Sally Thompson.
A month ago, the J-W poll showed the two were in a statistical dead heat. But today Roberts is ahead 42 percent to Thompson's 31 percent.
The J-W poll shows that Roberts now leads in three of the four congressional districts.
Cigler said Roberts' surge was a result in more voter awareness of who he is.
"In the last poll, there were a variety of people who had him confused with Pat Robertson (the TV evangelist), and they've worked on that a little bit," Cigler said.
Ali said a Brownback win on Tuesday could actually help Roberts in the general election.
"The odds of Kansas voting for two Democratic women are slim, and Roberts would be clearly seen as more moderate than Brownback," he said.