|Pictured above, former Republican and Democrat, now Independent candidate for Senate in Kansas, Greg Orman.|
Survey USA was first out of the gate yesterday afternoon, releasing a new poll of the Kansas Senate battle taken entirely *after* the shocking announcement last week that Democrat Chad Taylor would be exiting the race. Cutting to the chase - things look pretty bad for Republicans, at least on the surface.
Long-time incumbent Pat Roberts is polling at just 36% with the general electorate - that, after having won 60% in 2008, 83% in 2002, and 62% in 1996. Republican turned Democrat turned Independent Greg Orman comes in at 37%. A stunning 10% say they will vote for Chad Taylor regardless of the fact he has dropped out of the race. 17% are either undecided or will vote for Libertarian Randall Batson.
Given Kansas Democrats singular desire to kick Roberts out of D.C., it's easy to look at the 37-36-10% split and just say "hey, give that 10% for Taylor to Orman, and you have a 47-36% Independent candidate lead over the incumbent Republican." But why stop the assumptions there? Especially considering the fact that the devil is in the details.
First of all, the odds that 10% of Kansas likely voters will actually wind up voting for a non-candidate like Taylor are unlikely. So to see how the Taylor vote could break-up down the road, consider the partisan make-up of the 10% of Kansas likely voters that say they will vote for Chad Taylor. 21% of Democrats support Taylor. 12% of Independents do. And just 3% of Republicans support Taylor. Now suppose that two-thirds of the Taylor-supporting Democrats decide to abandon the non-candidate in favor of Greg Orman between now and November 4, 2014. The remaining one-third of Taylor supporting Democrats stay with Taylor in this scenario because...well...some Democrats are bound to vote for the guy with a (D) beside his name. In the meantime, reallocate two-thirds of the Taylor-supporting Republicans to the Roberts column, and leave the remaining third with Taylor. Lastly, reallocate two-thirds of the Taylor-supporting Independents evenly between Roberts and Orman, with the remaining one-third staying loyal to Taylor. How would the Survey USA result have looked under such a feasible scenario, all other findings remaining the same?
So you see, it's not quite as simple as just slapping all 10% of Taylor voters up on Orman's board. Orman would lead in such a hypothetical where Taylor voters side overwhelmingly with Orman, but by 4 points overall. And remember, the scenario above also assumes Roberts' 59% among Republican voters increases to 61% as a result of taking two-thirds (2%) of Republicans that claim they will support Democrat Chad Taylor. The scenario further assumes that 2/3 of Independent Taylor supporters will split evenly for Roberts and Orman, with Taylor maintaining the other third. In the end of this scenario, Taylor's support among the general electorate is around 3%, which sounds more likely as awareness grows about his non-candidacy in the 8 weeks remaining until election day.