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Democrat Drops Out Of Kansas Senate Race, Which May Help Democrats

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The Democratic nominee in Kansas has dropped out of the race for United States Senate, and there are several analysts who believe that this may actually end up helping Democrats:

The race for U.S. Senate in Kansas no longer has a Democrat in it.

In a stunning development, candidate Chad Taylor asked Wednesday that his name be removed from the ballot, paving the way for independent candidate Greg Orman to face U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts head-on in November.

“After much consideration and prolonged discussion with my supporters, my staff, and party leadership at every level, I have decided to end my campaign for the United States Senate,” Taylor said in an exclusive statement to The Eagle.

“I have great love for the state of Kansas and the people that live here. I will continue work in their best interest every day, but effective today, my campaign is terminated,” said Taylor, the district attorney for Shawnee County.

Taylor would not talk further about why he was dropping out, and Kansas Democratic Party chairwoman Joan Wagnon offered few clues as to the reasons behind his decision.

“We’re still assessing to see what this means,” she said Wednesday evening. “What I really want to see is Pat Roberts vanished from the Capitol.”

Leroy Towns, Roberts’ campaign manager, called Orman a “closet Democrat” and said Roberts would prevail by running on his record.

Orman’s candidacy, buoyed by television commercials and social media, has received national attention. Although he trailed both major party candidates in the polls, several analysts saw him as the candidate with momentum in the race. Taylor’s decision to quit came the same day that more than 70 former Republican lawmakers endorsed Orman.

“He’s created a buzz for himself, and that’s pretty impressive for an independent candidate,” said Michael Smith, a professor of political science at Emporia State University.

Orman would lead Roberts 43 percent to 33 percent in a head-to-head race, according to an August poll from Public Policy Polling.

Another poll from SurveyUSA showed Orman was attracting voters from across the political spectrum.

“Roberts has the fight of his life on his hands. And if you were going to cast a vote right now, you’d be talking about Kansas sending, I believe, our first independent to Congress. This is huge,” said Chapman Rackaway, a professor of political science at Fort Hays State University. He predicted Taylor’s supporters would flock to Orman.

The Hays Daily News published an editorial last week calling for Taylor to drop out of the race in order to make room for Orman. And Jim Sherow, the Democratic House candidate in the 1st District, endorsed Orman over Taylor.

Taylor’s campaign had dismissed the calls to step aside.

“Put Greg Orman up on the same stage as Chad Taylor, and Chad Taylor wins that debate every day of the week,” his campaign spokesman, Brandon Naylor, had said last month.

Now Orman will share a stage at this weekend’s Kansas State Fair debate with only Roberts, who emerged from the Republican primary with less than 50 percent of the vote after a bruising battle with tea party candidate Milton Wolf.

The Senate race also includes Libertarian Randall Batson, who has failed to break 5 percent in any polls.

Under state law, a nominated candidate “who declares that they are incapable of fulfilling the duties of office if elected” can withdraw by notifying the state by a set deadline. That deadline was Wednesday.

Ordinarily, of course, the prospect of a Democratic nominee dropping out of a race with less than eight weeks left before Election Day would seem to be good news for a Republican like Roberts who seemed as though he was heading for an easy victory after holding off a challenge from Tea Party backed candidate Milton Wolf last month. These are not ordinary times in Kansas, though, In addition to the presence of what seems like a strong independent candidate on the ballot in the Senate race, we are also seeing the Republican Party in the very Republican Sunflower State being ripped apart. To some degree, this is happening because of the same establishment v. Tea Party battles that we’ve seen elsewhere in the country, and which played out in the Roberts v. Wolf GOP Primary campaign. In addition to that, however, the rather ineffectively tenure of Republican Governor Sam Brownback has caused a rift in the party, as well as damaging the reputation of the party nation wide. Brownback’s tenure has been marked more notably by deep tax cuts that have left the state with serious budget problems, and that has led many Republicans to endorse his Democratic opponent and others to just stay out of the race completely. Indeed, at the moment, it looks as though Brownback is going to lose his reelection bid. To some degree at least, it would seem as though Orman, in his independent bid for the Senate, has capitalized on the frustration with the state Republican Party, and has even managed to snag endorsements from state and local party officials.

As the polling has shown Orman drawing a significant share of the vote in the weeks since the GOP Primary, there have been reports that state Democratic leaders were considering the possibility of abandoning their own nominee and backing the independent candidate on the theory that he may have a better chance of picking up what otherwise would be a safe Republican seat. This wouldn’t be an unprecedented move since it is essentially what the party did two years ago in Maine when national Democrats were openly backing independent Angus King over the nominee of the Maine Democratic Party, and state party officials essentially sat out the race. In this case, while Taylor has been slightly ahead of Orman in the polls, the assessment has apparently been that the independent candidate would have a better chance of winning in November given the fact that Kansas hasn’t sent a Democrat to the Senate since the 1930s and Orman’s campaign today has been drawing support almost equally from Democrats and disaffected Republicans. With Taylor out and Orman the sole significant opponent to Roberts in the race, the logic seems to be that the combination of the disassatisfaction with the GOP that Brownback seems to have helped created with Orman’s populist appeal would be enough to deny the GOP a win in a state that nobody was expecting.

There is one crucial element to this entire plan, of course. So far at least, Orman has not indicated which party he would caucus with if he managed to get elected to the Senate. The closest he’s come are comments where he has said that he doesn’t think that he could vote for either Harry Reid or Mitch McConnell as Senate Majority Leader, instead suggesting that he’s prefer to see someone like North Dakota Democrat Kristi Noem or Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski in that position. Since that isn’t going to happen, though, one suspects that reporters will press Orman to be clearer on what his intentions might be should he win the election. In that regard, it would likely be wise for him to follow the lead of Angus King, who said two years ago when he was faced with the same questions that he would base his decision on which party to caucus with on what was best for his constituents. That’s not exactly a complete answer, but it leaves the candidate with enough wiggle room to avoid having to answer the question over and over again on the campaign trail.

Prior to yesterday’s withdrawal, Roberts was leading the Senate race, but by a far smaller margin than you might have expected from a long term incumbent such as himself. The PollTracker average, for example, has Roberts at 35.3%, Taylor at 29.7%, and Orman at 21%. A fourth candidate, Libertarian Party nominee Randall Batson is averaging 3.7%. With Taylor now out of the race, we’ll have to wait at least a week or more to see the first polling of a Roberts-Orman matchup, but one suspects that it ill be Orman that will see the biggest jump in the polls. Obviously, if you add the numbers for Taylor and Orman together, that would suggest that Orman could end up being in the lead. While this may end up being the case, what is unclear at the moment is how many of the Republicans who may have been backing Orman will stick with him now that we’ve got a two man race against the Republican nominee. At the very least, this is going to be an interesting one to watch and, if Kansas becomes a seat that the GOP has to worry about defending then it is going to have a huge impact on the race for the Senate as a whole.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    The Kansas GOP… couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of guys.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  2. superdestroyer says:

    Once again, another data point that shows that the U.S. is becoming a one party state. Bad performance on the party of Republicans gets them voted out of office when it never seems to happen to incumbent Democrats.

    This also shows how intelligent and clever the operations of the Democratic party like David Axelrod are. Instead of finding just on path to victory, they create a situation when all paths lead to victory. This also shows that as the U.S. becomes a one party state, that the Democratic Party will be more liberal while looking less liberal.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 16

  3. Moosebreath says:

    Actually Orman’s website says he will caucus with the majority:

    “With that said, if one party is clearly in the majority, he will seek to caucus with the party that was in the majority as that would be in the best interest for the state of Kansas.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  4. Ron Beasley says:

    This may be yet another example of voters recognizing that long time Senators have become residents the beltway and not their and not the residents of the states they are supposed to represent. Rather than looking out for the residents of their State they look out for the the interests of K-Street. Back in the days when they could produce pork barrel spending for their States they could get away with it but now that has become more difficult they can’t.
    One of the things to look at is how many X Senators stay in the DC area after they retire or are defeated.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  5. KansasMom says:

    Everytime Doug writes about Kansas I’ve said the same thing. Brownback will lose and Roberts is in trouble. Nice to see reality represented. It’s going to be a fun election season in Kansas .

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  6. stonetools says:

    Nate Silver understads that this will have a big impact on the Republicans’ chances of gaining the majority, since Kansas was one of the Republicans’ sure things. Now it’s a tossup.
    I’m bettting that the Republicans’ chances of gaining the Senate majority will drop below 50% in the next set of polls.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  7. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Moosebreath:

    I wonder what he will do if the chamber ends up being split 49-49, with Orman and Angus King as deciders. It’s not a far fetched idea.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  8. edmondo says:

    prefer to see someone like North Dakota Democrat Kristi Noem or Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski in that position.

    Well, let’s hope that if he does get elected he finds out that Kristi Noem is A) a Republican, and B) a member of the House of Representatives.

    On the other hand, the Democrats may well have found the answer to running against the GOP with Obama in the White House – just drop out of the race seems to be quite an effective strategy. Perhaps we can get Hillary to pick it up?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 12

  9. Tyrell says:

    Hillary, are you watching this? Take a hint.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 10

  10. stonetools says:

    I think the Democrats here are are playing a bad hand – they were set up for a bad year in the Senate races- strategically and well Good show Democrats!
    Generally I’m used to the Republicans playing strategically while the liberals follow their hearts, attack each other for impurity, and generally shoot themselves in the foot. It’s refreshing to see them acting strategically.

    @edmondo:

    Perhaps we can get Hillary to pick it up?

    Actually, uniting behind Hillary-the candidate with an overwhelming lead on everybody-would be the strategic thing to do. But you wouldn’t know about strategic thinking, so carry on.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  11. Moosebreath says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    “I wonder what he will do if the chamber ends up being split 49-49, with Orman and Angus King as deciders. It’s not a far fetched idea.”

    He answered that as well on the page I linked to above:

    “If Greg is elected, there’s a reasonable chance that neither party would have a majority in the US Senate. If that is the case, he will work with the other independent Senators to caucus with the party that is most willing to face our country’s difficult problems head on and advance our problem-solving, non-partisan agenda.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  12. edmondo says:

    @stonetools:

    Actually, uniting behind Hillary-the candidate with an overwhelming lead on everybody-would be the strategic thing to do. But you wouldn’t know about strategic thinking,

    I may not know much about your brand of “strategic thinking’ but I sure know what Bush’s fifth term would look like.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 8

  13. Paul L. says:

    Funny a Lawyer ignoring what the Law says.
    clever by half: Kansas Democrats may be stuck with Chad Taylor on the Kansas-SEN ticket.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  14. Jr says:

    It would be hilarious if Kansas helps keep the Democratic majority in the senate.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  15. Andre Kenji says:

    Hillary is not a good strategic choice. Her lead in the General election(Not in the Primary) is pretty small, considering that she has lots of name recognition. One could argue that a Senator or a Governor from Red or s Purple state with a good NRA rating could be concessions for the left, but concessions that could be translated strategic advantage. Hillary´s concessions(Specially on Wall Street and War) does not translate in political advantages.

    Blah, George Will is not wrong when he says that Sherrod Brown would be a better candidate.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  16. humanoid.panda says:

    @stonetools: “Pretend to be a disillusioned Democrat so that some liberal somewhere reading my pretend-complaints might decide not to vote in some elections” is a a form of strategy, no? It might be a weak strategy in the sense it fools no one, but strategy it is.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  17. humanoid.panda says:

    @Andre Kenji: Yes, if there is one person who only has the best interests of the Democrats’ at heart, it’s George Will. Should they also listen to advice from Karl Rove while we’re at it? Bill Kristol? Ted Cruz?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  18. stonetools says:

    @Andre Kenji:

    Blah, George Will is not wrong when he says that Sherrod Brown would be a better candidate.

    Beware a Republican advising Democrats on strategy. Liberal Democrats know and like Sherrod Brown. Outside Ohio, most of the general public has never heard of him-and may not like him.

    I’m now reading Nixonland, where liberal Democrats were sure that the general public would just love their favored candidate, George McGovern, once they got to know him. Wrong again, Bob.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 3

  19. wr says:

    @Moosebreath: And my guess is that the Teapublicans will spend so much time and money trashing this man over the next couple of months he won’t want anything to do with them. And then they’ll wonder why they were betrayed again…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  20. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Moosebreath:

    Right, but it doesn’t really give an answer one way or the other. His first answer is pretty clear–if a party has the majority, I caucus with them. His second answer is “we will see.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  21. Andre Kenji says:

    @stonetools:

    Outside Ohio, most of the general public has never heard of him-and may not like him.

    I used Brown as an random example. My point is about Hillary: she was trailing that fat bully from New Jersey before the GW Bridge scandal.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  22. stonetools says:

    @Andre Kenji:

    I’m not seeing anyone stronger than Hillary right now, so HRC it is. Liberals, don’t go chasing unicorns.
    Another way to put it: play the hand you have, not the hand you wish you had. You seem to think that any liberal Democrat out there is a better candidate than Hillary. Well, the polls say no.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  23. humanoid.panda says:

    @stonetools: Yes. To be less snarky than before, than even if we assume that Clinton’s only advantage over Brown is name recognition, that is a huge advantage in terms of building organization, raising money and so forth. Since political scientists convincingly argue that the exact ideological bent of the President counts for less than the structure of the party coalition he/she is leading I see very little upside in getting a presidential nominee 2 ticks to the left of Clinton who will have lesser odds of getting elected. In other words, if President Brown will be 20% more liberal than President Clinton, it is not worth the 20% less of a chance that candidate Brown will be elected.
    And Edmondo, if you actually are a disillusioned Democrat and not a troll, please think of of the half million people in my state, Pennsylvania alone who will now have access to Medicaid before you open your trap about Bush’s fifth term and there being no difference between the two parties.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  24. humanoid.panda says:

    @Andre Kenji: That was simply a function of the fact that due to the famous Obama hug, Christie had a bipartisan cred that no other politician in the country has. Do you think any other GOP politician has one? If they do, how can it possibly survive a long primary that at some point will probably devolve to burning illegal immigrants in effigy?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  25. Siegfried Heydrich says:

    @Andre Kenji: You know, if you’re going to whistle past the graveyard, you could at least make it a snappy tune, as the Zombies really do need some cheering up.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  26. Tyrell says:

    @stonetools: George McGovern was an honorable man. He was a combat veteran of WWII. He had a lot of respect from many people, including those who disagreed with him. After Nixon won in 1968, the national Democratic party was taken over by extreme leftists. McGovern’s campaign was a disaster from the start with the vp selection fiasco. But Nixon would have won regardless. McGovern opposed the Vietnam War, but did not advocate an immediate pullout. By ’72 the Kennedy’s were gone.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0