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Steve Kraske: Unsure how the Kansas races will shake out? Ponder these political maxims

Good old political theories that have been around for decades may help you sort out what will happen in the too-close-to-call Kansas races involving Sen. Pat Roberts and Gov. Sam Brownback.
Good old political theories that have been around for decades may help you sort out what will happen in the too-close-to-call Kansas races involving Sen. Pat Roberts and Gov. Sam Brownback. The Kansas City Star

Not sure what will happen in Kansas’ dead-heat races for governor and U.S. Senate?

Join the crowd. But for a little insight, peer into the foggy future with these tried-and-true political maxims:

The candidate with the most money wins.

Based on this metric, Sen. Pat Roberts and Gov. Sam Brownback can say hello to new terms.

A 2012 study by the nonpartisan OpenSecrets.org looked at every House and Senate race from 2000 through 2010. Get this: In the Senate, the biggest spenders won 170 of 206 races, or 83 percent.

In the House, the total was laughable. The biggest spenders waltzed to wins in 2,264 of 2,438 races — 93 percent of the time.

Brownback and Roberts have the most money. They’ll win … right?

Maybe not. Check this out:

Incumbents below 50 percent in the polls lose.

This one has been modified a bit over the years. But the latest scholarship still suggests that Brownback and Roberts may well taste defeat.

A Senate study out this month by the University of Virginia Center for Politics showed candidates at 48 percent and above three weeks before Election Day win at least 75 percent of the time.

Those polling at 46-47 percent are in true toss-up territory. Dip below 46 percent and the winning percentage for incumbents drops into the 30s.

Apply that to the governor’s race. The latest survey had Brownback at 45 percent and Democrat Paul Davis at 52 percent. It’s the second poll falling in the 21-day window showing Brownback at 45 percent.

In the Senate race, the latest poll had Roberts trailing his independent challenger, Greg Orman, by 5 points.

But Roberts vs. Orman is still a coin flip. It might be that Orman’s unusual candidacy as an independent puts this race into its own separate category.

Republicans, though, might take some solace in this one:

As Election Day nears, voters tempted to stray from their party usually wind up not doing so.

With more Kansas Republicans than Democrats by far, this should bolster GOP prospects.

Still, Roberts has struggled to hold on to conservatives, while Brownback is in deep trouble with moderates.

So maybe this will decide it:

Incumbents do slightly better when local sports teams score big wins near election time.

Some anger gets sucked out of the voting booth. So if Roberts and Brownback triumph, they might thank the Royals.

To reach Steve Kraske, call 816-234-4312 or send email to skraske@kcstar.com.

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