Town Talk: Kansas poll shows Romney with big lead, majority still supports Brownback; Democrats retain big edge in numbers in Douglas County; Lawrence artist sells work to Smithsonian

News and notes from around town:

• I wonder what it must be like to live in Ohio these days. Based on all the media coverage of the different presidential polls being taken in the ultimate swing state, every time the phone rings it must be a pollster. (Unless you are an “undecided” voter. In that case, the phone call is actually from a groveling politician.)

Here in Kansas no one seems to care about our opinions. (I don’t take it personally. It has been years since anyone in my own household has sought my opinion.)

Surprisingly, though, there has been a poll taken on the presidential race in Kansas. If you remember a couple of weeks ago we reported on how a D.C. politico has moved to Lawrence and set up a polling company. Mark Sump, president of Activate, has conducted what he is calling the Jayhawk Poll. (Every time a Wildcat fan was contacted, the first 15 minutes of the survey was consumed by Wildcat fans making jokes about how Jayhawk and poll don’t go together during football season. When the pollster agreed that it was an oxymoron, K-State fans became offended and said there was no need for name calling.)

Anyway, there was no surprise in the presidential race in Kansas. The state’s solid Republican support continues. Republican Mitt Romney polled at 56 percent of the vote, while President Barack Obama garnered 36.2 percent. About 4.2 percent listed themselves as undecided. (I think they are really just saying that in hopes Soledad O’Brien will interview them on CNN.)

What is a bit surprising is that President Obama’s favorable/unfavorable rating came in a bit higher than some may expect in such a Republican stronghold. About 45.7 percent of respondents gave the president a favorable rating, while 51.8 percent ranked him unfavorable. Romney did better with 63.3 percent ranking him favorably, while 33.6 percent ranked him unfavorable. The pollsters asked respondents to give each candidate a score of 0 to 100, with scores above 50 being counted as favorable and those below 50 being counted as unfavorable. The poll results didn’t reveal an overall average score for each candidate.

The most interesting part of the poll, however, may be the findings about two statewide politicians. Sump asked for favorability ratings on Gov. Sam Brownback and Secretary of State Kris Kobach.

I think some folks in Lawrence have deluded themselves into thinking the state has turned against the governor. The poll certainly doesn’t show that, but I’m not sure the numbers are where Brownback’s folks would like them. The survey found 55.1 percent of respondents gave Brownback a favorable rating, while 37.3 percent gave him an unfavorable rating.

Kobach had a 34.4 percent favorable rating and a 25.8 percent unfavorable rating. Interestingly, 39.7 percent either had not heard of Kobach or had no opinion of him. Kobach certainly is one of the more notable secretaries of state in the country, but as this poll reminds us, he is still just a secretary of state.

Sump is what you would consider a Democratic pollster. His claim to fame is having worked for Bill Clinton’s two presidential campaigns, and his Activate company does most of its business with Democratic candidates. But the poll is a scientific one with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.3 percent. The poll contacted 1,225 registered Kansas voters, and as you would expect in this state, it was heavy on Republicans. About 45 percent of the respondents were Republican, 24 percent Democrat and about 24 percent independent. About 48 percent identified themselves as political conservatives, while only 12 percent identified themselves as liberal.

Sump mainly conducted the poll as a way of giving his Lawrence polling center some work while it was getting established. He said he would like to do the poll again next year, but will have to find a group or media organization that is willing to pay for it.

• If the Jayhawk Poll were taken just in Douglas County, Republicans would be the smallest of the three major political groups.

Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew has tallied up the voter registration totals for the upcoming election, and recently had them certified by the Kansas Secretary of State’s office.

Unaffiliated independents are the largest group in the county, numbering 28,028 or about 35.5 percent of the 78,752 total registered voters in the county.

Democrats number 27,194 or 34.5 percent. Republicans check in at 22,706 or 28.8 percent.

Other parties represented include:

— Americans Elect: 13 people

— Libertarian: 759

— Reform: 52

Shew said voter registration rolls grew by about 3,700 since August.

• It wouldn’t take a very large boat to house all the local folks in the Americans Elect party. Maybe one about the size George Washington used to cross the Delaware. If you are not familiar with that boat, just take a look at the picture to the side of this article.

And no, that’s not George Washington. Instead that is Lawrence artist Roger Shimomura’s take on the famous painting from America’s history. Shimomura’s piece is making news these days.

His work, “Shimomura Crossing the Delaware,” has been purchased by the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery to be included in its permanent collection.

Roger Shimomura's Shimomura

If you are not familiar with Shimomura, he has built up an international reputation as a Japanese-American artist who tackles sociopolitical themes. The “Shimomura Crossing the Delaware” is a 6-foot-by-12-foot acrylic on canvas painting that plays off the famous Washington Crossing the Delaware painting, but Shimomura’s boat is full of a Japanese crew.

This latest purchase adds to Shimomura’s national résumé He already has works in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the American History Museum and the Archives of American Art.

I got to know Shimomura just briefly when I wrote an article about him last year, detailing how he spent part of his childhood in an interment camp for Japanese-Americans during World War II. He’s one of the more interesting and complex people I’ve chatted with.

I could tell you more about that experience, and as you would expect, I could provide a dissertation on the finer points of art of all styles. But I won’t. I have to prepare for my interview with Soledad. I just know she is going to knock on my door at any moment.