A new poll out Monday by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling shows the races for governor and U.S. Senate in Kansas getting tighter.
Based on a survey, 1,081 likely voters conducted over the weekend, the governor's race between Republican Sam Brownback and his Democratic challenger Paul Davis is now tied, with each getting 42 percent, while Libertarian Keen Umbehr shows up with 6 percent.
"Umbehr is the unusual Libertarian who's actually helping the Republican in the race by splitting the anti-Brownback vote," PPP said in a news release.
Meanwhile, Republican Sen. Pat Roberts has narrowed his gap and now trails independent candidate Greg Orman by just three points, 44-41 percent. In September, PPP showed Orman with a 10-point lead.
Roberts has spent most of the campaign stressing that a vote for him is the surest path to gaining a Republican majority in the Senate, and the PPP poll suggests that message may be working for him. By a 52-35 percent margin, it said voters in Kansas would rather Republicans had control of the Senate than Democrats.
However, both Brownback and Roberts remain deeply unpopular among voters, according to the poll. It found 54 percent of those surveyed disapproved of the job Brownback is doing as governor, and 47 percent disapprove of the job Roberts is doing as senator.
Some number of people in Kansas — it's not really clear how many — are eagerly awaiting a decision from the Shawnee County District Court about whether Democrats will be required to name a candidate for the U.S. Senate.
In the meantime, a new look at the polls in that race shows why it matters.
A group of Kansas academics who take turns writing op-ed pieces under the heading Insight Kansas gathered all of the "independent, scientific, noncandidate-paid-for" polls in the major races, averaged them and came up with this:
With Democrat Chad Taylor on the ballot, independent candidate Greg Orman leads Republican Pat Roberts by an average 1.25 percentage points. That's pretty close to being a statistical dead heat.
That's the average of four polls, all taken after Taylor dropped out of the race. And two of those polls taken in mid-September — by Rasmussen Reports and Fox News — showed Roberts ahead by 1 and 2 points respectively.
But take Taylor off the ballot and ask people to choose between Roberts and Orman alone, and Orman's lead expands to an average 7.75 points.
Bob Beatty, a political science professor and part of the Insight Kansas group, said it's clear that when Taylor dropped out of the race in early September, the bulk of his support went to Orman. And if Taylor, or any other Democrat, is put back on the ballot, it takes support away from Orman.
"Because there's always going to be Republicans and Democrats who vote the party line," Beatty said. "If any Democrat is on that ballot, it takes away some votes from Orman."
That's precisely what Republicans stand to gain in the lawsuit pending in Topeka, and it shows pretty clearly why the Democratic Party has no particular interest in trying to put someone else on the ballot.
Beatty said the academics at Insight Kansas will continue putting out the polling averages each week between now and Election Day, looking mainly at the five most recent polls in each race. Here's what they're showing in the other major races right now:
• Governor: Democrat Paul Davis leads Republican Gov. Sam Brownback by an average of 5.4 percentage points. "The amazing thing there is how consistent it's been since June," Beatty said. "They all show Davis with a 4 to 7 point lead."
• Secretary of State: Republican incumbent Kris Kobach has a razor-thin lead of 1.8 points over Democrat Jean Schodorf, a former Republican state senator. In February, the first major poll, by Public Policy Polling, showed Kobach with a 7-point lead. But that's been narrowing in more recent surveys. Still, of the eight polls conducted in that race, only one has shown Schodorf with any kind of lead. That was SurveyUSA poll in early September that had her up by 3 points.
In addition to Beatty, Insight Kansas includes political science professors Burdett Loomis at Kansas University; Mark Peterson at Washburn University; Chapman Rackaway at Fort Hays State University; Michael Smith at Emporia State University; and Ed Flentje at Wichita State University.
A new poll sponsored by KSN-TV in Wichita shows a statistical dead heat in the U.S. Senate race between Republican Sen. Pat Roberts and independent challenger Greg Orman.
According to a report on the station's website, the latest SurveyUSA poll shows Orman at 37 percent; Roberts at 36 percent; and Democrat Chad Taylor, who announced his withdrawal from the race last week, still pulling in 10 percent. Libertarian candidate Randall Batson showed up at 6 percent, with 11 percent saying they are undecided.
The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.2 percentage points.
"Kansans are sick and tired of the partisan dysfunction in Washington, and Greg’s focus on problem solving continues to attract support from Republicans, Democrats and Independents alike,” Orman's campaign manager Jim Jonas said in a statement Monday.
The numbers suggest Orman has picked up some of Taylor's support, but not yet enough to win the race. An earlier poll in late August showed Roberts in almost the same position with 37 percent, followed by Taylor at 32 percent and Orman at 20 percent.
KSN reported that the survey found 74 percent of voters were aware that Taylor had withdrawn from the race, but only 54 percent knew that Secretary of State Kris Kobach had refused to take his name off the ballot.
Roberts' campaign staff said it showed Orman is not gaining momentum.
"This poll is almost identical to the poll results from the August 20th KSN poll, despite the fact that Mr. Taylor has dropped out," campaign manager Corry Bliss said. "However, in the interim weeks Greg Orman has spent over $500,000 in campaign ads, and the Roberts Campaign has yet (to) spend any money on TV, mail or radio in the general election. The impact of Mr. Orman's significant spending would seem to be non-existent."
The KSN-SurveyUSA poll also showed Democrat Jean Schodorf gaining a slight lead, 46-43 percent, in the race for Secretary of State over Kobach, with 11 percent of those surveyed still undecided.
In the race for governor, the KSN-SurveyUSA poll showed Democrat Paul Davis ahead of incumbent Republican Sam Brownback, 47-40 percent, with 7 percent still undecided. Those numbers are virtually unchanged from the earlier poll in late August.
Political junkies in Kansas are being treated to an unusually large number of polls this election cycle, which gives people who are nerds about statistics a lot to work with.
The latest came out Tuesday night from SurveyUSA, which conducted a poll on behalf of KSN-TV in Wichita. It showed Democrat Paul Davis with an eight-point lead, 48-40 percent, over incumbent Republican Gov. Sam Brownback.
It was the third public poll conducted since the Aug. 5 primary, and all three have shown Davis ahead in the race, giving the Davis camp a boost of confidence. But when all three polls are averaged together, the results still show a close race.
The polls included one by Public Policy Polling, showing Davis ahead by two, 39-37 percent; and one by Rasmussen Reports showing Davis ahead by 10, 51-41 percent. Each poll was conducted differently using different sample sizes, resulting in slightly different margins of error. But when the three of them are combined as if they were all one poll, you come up with this:
Here, we're looking at the raw number of respondents who indicated how they would vote if the election were held on the day they were polled. SurveyUSA provides those raw numbers. For the other two, the numbers were calculated using the reported percentages and sample size.
Mark Joslyn, a Kansas University political science professor who studies public opinion polling, said those numbers show the race is far from decided.
"The reasonably consistent low support for Brownback does indicate a close race," Joslyn said in an email when asked to comment on the numbers. "In that regard, how firm voters’ support is and how the undecided break are keys to the eventual outcome."
An important point about the table above is that we've combined the "other/undecided" voters with those who said they support Libertarian candidate Keen Umbehr. Two of the polls, SurveyUSA and PPP, gave people the option of picking Umbehr. The Rasmussen survey did not.
SurveyUSA shows Umbehr polling at 5 percent while PPP showed him at 9 percent. So if we give him an average of 7 percent, out of the 2,213 people sampled, that still leaves about 8.4 percent undecided.
The question for Brownback, then, is what can he do to sway those voters that he hasn't already done during three and a half years in office. Given his high disapproval ratings (53 percent in Rasmussen; 55 percent in PPP), the answer is twofold: rewrite the narrative of his first term in hopes of changing voters' assessment of him and launch a negative campaign to convince undecideds that Davis would be worse, both of which the Brownback campaign has been doing.
The latter may be an achievable task, given Davis' current low name recognition. In the PPP poll, 41 percent said they're not sure what to think of him. In the Rasmussen poll, 19 percent said they've never heard of him.
Thus, Davis' challenge will be to connect with those undecided voters and make them feel comfortable voting for him before Brownback's negative message has a chance to sink in.
A new poll out shows Democrat Paul Davis leading incumbent Gov. Sam Brownback by eight percentage points, although neither candidate is yet polling above 50 percent.
It also shows the GOP primary for U.S. Senate tightening, although incumbent Pat Roberts still has a sizable lead over Tea Party-backed challenger Milton Wolf.
The automated poll by SurveyUSA was conducted July 17-22 for KSN-TV in Wichita. It sampled 1,208 likely voters in Kansas through automated phone calls to both land lines and cellphones, with a reported margin of sampling error of 2.8 percent.
It shows Brownback facing serious challenges in his bid for a second term in the governor's office. In the upcoming Aug. 5 primary, it shows little-known challenger Jennifer Winn getting support from 30 percent of likely primary voters. And in the Nov. 5 general election, it shows Davis leading, 48-40 percent.
The poll also showed a deep split between Davis and Brownback supporters over what they consider to be the most important issues in the race. Among those who think education funding is the top issue, 76 percent say they support Davis, compared with only 18 percent for Brownback.
Brownback leads by narrower margins among voters focusing on economic issues: 55-34 percent for those who think tax rates are most important; and 54-31 percent for those citing job recruitment as the most important.
In the Republican U.S. Senate primary, Roberts, a three-term incumbent, still holds a 50-30 lead over Wolf, but that's narrower than the last SurveyUSA poll, which showed him ahead by 33 points. That portion of the poll included 691 likely GOP primary voters with a margin of error of 3.8 percent.
And in a hypothetical match-up in November against Chad Taylor, the leading Democrat in the race, Roberts is ahead by only five points, 38-33 percent, with independent candidate Greg Orman polling at 14 percent, and 10 percent of the respondents still undecided.
In the Demcoratic primary in that race, Taylor, the Shawnee County District Attorney, leads Lawrence attorney Patrick Wiesner, 48-17 percent, among likely Democratic primary voters. That portion of the poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 5.6 percent.
But if Wolf should pull off an upset in the primary, the SurveyUSA poll says Democrats could win their first Senate race in Kansas since 1932. In that hypothetical match-up, Taylor is ahead, 34-33 percent, a statistical dead heat in a poll with a 3.7 percent margin of error.
Secretary of State Kris Kobach's support slipped substantially over the last month, but he still leads his GOP challenger Scott Morgan of Lawrence, 56-30 percent. Last month, Kobach was ahead 61-29 percent. In a November match-up with Democrat Jean Schodorf, the race is much tighter, with Kobach ahead 47-41 percent.
Both major candidates for governor have begun using a tactic pioneered by the Barack Obama campaign back in 2008 that seeks to use major news announcements as a tool for gathering data about potential supporters.
Some might remember back in 2008 when speculation was swirling about whom Obama would name to be his vice presidential running mate. While many speculated — correctly, as it turned out — that it would be Sen. Joe Biden, there was strong pressure to name then-Sen. Hillary Clinton, who had finished a close second in the race for the nomination.
So, instead of simply announcing his pick, the Obama campaign invited people to sign up and be the first to learn the news via text messages to their cellphones. Most people forget that the plan didn't actually work. Word of the veep pick leaked out long before anyone got a text message. But the bigger achievement was that in the process the Obama campaign gained the names and cellphone numbers of tens of thousands of potential voters and supporters.
Last week, Democrat Paul Davis replicated the experiment by inviting people to sign up and get email alerts about his big announcement: that more than 100 Republicans, mostly former officeholders, had formed a group to endorse him for governor.
Then, over the weekend, Republican Gov. Sam Brownback's re-election campaign followed suit, inviting his followers to sign up to be the first to hear news about its "big announcement" on Monday, which was that one of the 104 people on Davis' list is actually endorsing him.
People can judge for themselves whether the announcements themselves lived up to their pre-announcement hype. But there is more behind the strategy than just delivering an unfiltered message straight to supporters.
"Certainly it's a tool we can use to build data about supporters who are interested in the campaign," said Brownback campaign spokesman John Milburn. "These are people who may be interested in being a volunteer to get out and work for us. It's a great tool for that. And you don't get that from a television ad."
According to Brownback's own campaign website, the event had attracted 655 people to sign up and provide their email addresses by the time the announcement came out at 1:51 p.m. That was well short of the campaign's own stated goal of getting 1,000 people to sign up, and it's certain that at least a handful of those who did sign up were news reporters who have no intention of donating or volunteering for the campaign.
Davis campaign spokesman Chris Pumpelly wouldn't comment on the Davis campaign's strategy or its relative success.
"It's not our policy to discuss campaign strategy," Pumpelly said in an email. "We're focused on building a bipartisan coalition of commonsense Kansans who want to get our state back on track. That includes all forms of communication and grassroots organizing."
But the strategy also comes with built-in pitfalls, which both campaigns experienced almost immediately. The first of which is that when you try to amplify the impact of your message, you run the danger of amplifying your mistakes.
For Brownback, the immediate reaction was that he had over-sold an announcement which turned out to be marginally newsworthy at best. The news that Meyers hadn't endorsed Davis and, if given a choice, would endorse Brownback, had already been reported days earlier.
For Davis, the problem was that he got part of the story wrong. Meyers hadn't endorsed him. And, as it later turned out, at least three of the Republicans on his list actually were no longer registered Republicans.
But in that regard, both the Brownback and Davis campaigns are in good company. In 2008, when the Obama campaign used the strategy to announce its veep pick, the plan didn't work. There were leaks, and several reporters got the heads-up long before the mass text announcement. And the mass texts turned out not to work very well either, and some of those who signed up never got the texts until several hours later.
The number of high-profile Republicans endorsing Democrat Paul Davis for governor is now down to 103.
Former U.S. Rep. Jan Meyers told the Kansas City Star Thursday that while she did agree to join the group Republicans for Kansas Values, she did not intend for that to be taken as an endorsement of Davis.
"If I endorsed anyone, it would be Sam Brownback because he’s our Republican candidate," Meyers was quoted as saying.
On Tuesday, the Davis campaign held a news conference announcing endorsements from 104 Republicans, mostly former public officeholders, who had formed the group Republicans for Kansas Values.
But the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission lists no registration of a political action committee by that name. Davis campaign spokesman Chris Pumpelly said Thursday that the group was organized by former state Sen. Wint Winter Jr., of Lawrence, but that the Davis campaign actually paid for Tuesday's media event and distribution of the news releases.
Meyers, now 85, is known as a moderate Republican. She represented northeast Kansas in Congress from 1985 to 1997. Before that, she served 12 years in the Kansas Senate and five years on the Overland Park City Council. In 1978, she ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate but was defeated in the GOP primary by Nancy Landon Kassebaum.
A new Kansas labor market report released today is unlikely to provide Gov. Sam Brownback with any relief from a barrage of negative reviews in the national press about his tax cuts and economic policy.
The June report shows private-sector employment has grown only about 1.3 percent over the last year, and about 2 percent since his first round of tax cuts took effect in January 2013.
Brownback's Labor secretary, Lana Gordon, said the report was good news. “With another month of private sector job growth, Kansas continues its comeback from the recession, having now added more than 55,000 private sector jobs since January 2011," she said.
But nationally, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. economy has added about 3.5 million private-sector jobs since January 2013, for a growth rate of about 3 percent. And with the exception of Nebraska, all other surrounding states have enjoyed more robust job growth than Kansas over that same period.
On a seasonally adjusted basis, Kansas added about 700 new private-sector jobs in June. But the unemployment rate ticked up a tenth of a point, to 4.9 percent, reflecting an increase in the number of people in the labor market.
On the campaign trail, Brownback has touted the fact that total employment is now at an all-time high for Kansas. But in the context of the broader national and regional economies, many pundits have pointed out, that is subpar performance.
The left-leaning Center for Budget Policies and Priorities pointed out that trend in March when it issued a scathing review of Brownback's tax cuts, calling the track record here a "cautionary tale" for any other state thinking about replicating the policy.
That report generated a storm of publicity in the national press, starting with the Washington Post, and the liberal website the Daily Kos. Before long, it was also picked up, and repeated on multiple shows, by NBC News and its cable news stepsister, MSNBC
By June, the New York Times picked up on the theme with a post by Upshot writer Josh Barro. That was followed up a couple days later with another piece by economist-columnist Paul Krugman, and then again with a Times editorial on July 13.
Some have argued that Brownback himself invited the national attention, first by hiring Arthur Laffer — the father of supply-side economics and a former adviser to President Ronald Reagan — to help craft his tax policy; and then by boasting that the tax cuts would be a "shot of adrenaline" to the Kansas economy, that would ultimately "pave the way to the creation of tens of thousands of new jobs, bring tens of thousands of people to Kansas, and help make our state the best place in America to start and grow a small business."
So far, the labor numbers show, Kansas hasn't added any more jobs than would have been expected otherwise during the national recovery, with or without the tax cuts, and some would argue it has grown less. Meanwhile, according to the Kansas Legislature's own research department, the loss of revenue resulting from the tax cuts are projected to put the state general fund in a deep financial hole by fiscal year 2017.
Santorum is a religious conservative who is perhaps best known for his staunch opposition to abortion and gay marriage. He and Brownback served together in the Senate from 1996, when Brownback was first elected, until 2007 when Santorum was defeated for re-election.
During the 2012 presidential race, Santorum was briefly considered a frontrunner. He placed first in the Kansas GOP caucuses in March that year, with just over 50 percent of the vote. But he lost the nomination to Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, who finished a distant second in Kansas.
Santorum will appear with Brownback and Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer at two events July 14. The first will be at 11:30 a.m. at Cars4Less, 820 Rogers Road, in Olathe. That event is free and open to the public.
The second event will be an afternoon fundraiser in Wichita that includes a screening of the 1940 movie "Knute Rockne, All American," co-starring Ronald Reagan. That event is scheduled for 3 p.m. at the Warren Theaters, 11611 E. 13th St. North in Wichita. The cost for attending the movie is $10 for individuals and $25 for families.
Brownback faces a challenger, Jennifer Winn of Haysville, in the Aug. 5 GOP primary. Rep. Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, is the presumptive Democratic nominee.
A new poll of likely Kansas voters shows Republican Gov. Sam Brownback trailing Democrat Paul Davis by six percentage points, although neither candidate has yet broken the 50-percent mark.
The SurveyUSA poll shows Davis leading Brownback, 47-41 percent, with one in four self-identified Republican voters indicating they will cross party lines and vote for Davis.
The poll also showed Republican Sen. Pat Roberts with a 2-1 lead over Tea Party challenger Milton Wolf, while Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach enjoys a wide lead over his primary challenger Scott Morgan, of Lawrence, 61-29 percent.
"It's encouraging to hear what people across Kansas are saying," said Davis campaign spokesman Chris Pumpelly. "We're working hard to build a coalition of Republicans, independents and Democrats."
But Brownback campaign manager Mark Dugan said SurveyUSA has been inaccurate in past races in Kansas, including a 2012 ballot issue in Wichita about fluoridating public water.
"We're confident that once Kansans learn the record of Gov. Brownback as well as (House) Minority Leader Davis, they're going to make Sam Brownback successful in November," Dugan said.
The poll in the governor's race sampled 1,068 likely voters. The margin of sampling error was plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
Those supporting Brownback listed tax rates (52 percent) and job creation (55 percent) as the most important issues to them. But 73 percent of those supporting Davis listed education as their top priority.
It also showed Brownback polling strongly in western Kansas, where he leads Davis, 52-36 percent. But Davis outperformed Brownback in Wichita, Kansas City and eastern Kansas.
For the GOP primary race for U.S. Senate, the poll sampled 508 likely GOP primary voters, with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points. It showed Roberts ahead of Wolf, 56-23 percent.
Roberts is a three-term incumbent who represented the Big First district of western Kansas before he was elected to the Senate in 1996. The poll showed his support especially strong in western Kansas, where he leads Wolf by 67 percent to 17 percent.
Roberts' weakest area of support is in the Kansas City area, where he holds only a 43-30 percent lead, with 16 percent of Kansas City-area voters still undecided.
He also polled at more than 50 percent among self-described conservatives and across all income brackets and levels of education.
Those polled in the Senate primary race listed jobs and the economy (63 percent) and Obamacare (57 percent) as the top issues in the race.
On the Democratic side of the Senate race, the poll showed Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor is still struggling to gain name recognition. He leads in the Democratic primary over Lawrence attorney Patrick Wiesner, 41-16 percent, with 43 percent of likely Democratic primary voters still undecided.
In other races, the SurveyUSA poll showed:
• In a hypothetical match-up in the general election, Roberts leads both Taylor (43-33 percent) and Wiesner (45-29 percent). But if Wolf were the Republican nominee for Senate, Taylor leads 36-33 percent, with 18 percent undecided. Wiesner trails in a hypothetical match-up with Wolf, 30-36 percent.
• In the general election for secretary of state, Democrat Jean Schodorf trails both Republican candidates: 41-47 percent against Kobach; and 39-44 percent against Morgan.