Pat Roberts is in deep trouble in Kansas. Despite surviving a brutal primary the three term Senator is unpopular and being dragged down by an unpopular personal brand. Still, considering he is behind in the polls and has less than four weeks to turn it around before election day there are reasons to believe he has a chance. What follows below are four reasons why Roberts could survive on election day.
1. Organization: Both the Roberts and Orman camps have been trying to ramp up their campaigns since the primary. But the ramping up is unequal. On the one hand you have Orman, who is getting little to no help from national organizations while Roberts is benefiting from NRSC money and consultants. Orman’s Independent candidacy might be driving voters to support him but it is unclear if they will turn out considering his support is primarily coming from Democrats and Independents. Roberts support is coming from Republicans and conservatives and turning them out on election day could give him a narrow victory.
2. Polling Inaccuracies: Polling has been all over the map this cycle and Kansas is no different. Just look at three polls taken over the same time frame, YouGov, Suffolk and CBS. The polls found widely divergent results ranging from a tie (Yougov) to a five point lead for Orman (Suffolk) to a significant 10 point lead for Orman (CBS). Add in that nationally pollsters are struggling to adapt to fewer voters having land lines or participating in surveys and you have a recipe for significant polling errors. The YouGov survey is notable because it included the largest sample and was online, perhaps indicating higher income and more interested voters participated. But, ultimately, the polls are different because of their samples. If the polls show Orman up until election day and Roberts pulls off a win we will know the samples were off but also why.
3. National Help: Republicans recognize the precarious nature of the Robert’s camp. That is why they have sent campaign staff, money and professional consultants to the state. Democrats, worried about making the race easier for Republicans tying Orman to the Democratic Party, have not aided Orman significantly. And this might be Orman’s greatest weakness. The lack of a professional staff, national help and a firm base of support (against Roberts more for Orman) mean his polling lead could disappear by election day.
4. Nationalizing the Race: Republicans have not been shy about telegraphing their election strategy. Tie Orman to Obama at every turn and use his lack of policy details into a liability that make voters rethink their support. Republicans are confident if they can nationalize the race they can win enough Independent and GOP votes to help Roberts squeak through. So far the polls have just begun to register the strategy working. However, it is worth noting the polls have shown widely divergent results (see above) and as such the attacks may just be starting to sink in.
None of these things could matter in the end if Roberts is simply to damaged to recover. But keep in mind Roberts has done everything in his power to tie Orman to Obama, use his business credentials as a liability and weaken Orman’s “Independent” argument. The President is deeply unpopular in the state and if Roberts can convince voters Orman is close to the President, in any form, he stands a good chance earning another term. Their latest debate yesterday showcased Roberts is going to tie Orman to the President and Harry Reid at every turn.
Addendum: Two new polls were released yesterday from CNN and Fox News. In the CNN poll Roberts led 49%-48% while in the Fox News poll he led 42%-37%. This might be a sign Robert’s strategy is working or it could be a sign that Roberts is delaying the inevitable (42% for an incumbent is not very good). We will see.