Yael T. Abouhalkah

Shocking Kansas GOP sweep shaping up for Sam Brownback, Pat Roberts

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, left, and U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts hope to be celebrating again on the night of the general election.
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, left, and U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts hope to be celebrating again on the night of the general election. The Associated Press

Just weeks ago, Democrats in Kansas were salivating over the possibility that Paul Davis would be the next governor in the state and independent Greg Orman would be a new U.S. senator.

Not any longer.

In fact, rather suddenly, Republicans are thinking they are going to have an enjoyable Nov. 4 night of watching election returns.

That’s because they now have growing reasons to think Gov. Sam Brownback is going to defeat Davis and win re-election. That would be unfortunate, given just how badly Brownback’s economic policies have hurt the state.

And they are giddy over the reversal in the Senate race, where incumbent Pat Roberts could slip by Orman. That, too, would be a near-disaster for Kansans, who would be plagued with the shrill, unproductive Roberts for six more years.

Why the big change?

▪ Polls explain much of the shift in optimism on behalf of Republican officials.

The most recent ones show both Brownback and Roberts gaining ground.

In the Senate race, Fox News had Roberts ahead, 44-39 percent. A Remington Research poll showed Roberts up, 48-46 percent.

A new CNN poll had Roberts ahead, 49-48 percent. This week’s Public Policy Polling result showed Orman ahead of Roberts 44-41, a big change from Orman’s 46-36 lead last month.

Orman’s best news is that a few other polls have shown him still leading. But he obviously needs to start doing something to undercut the late charge Roberts is making in this race, which is being run in a deep-red state that should favor retaining the three-term senator.

Orman also is hurt by the possibility many voters in Kansas want the GOP to control the U.S. Senate after November. Voting for Roberts will help ensure that.

In the governor’s race, Fox News gave Brownback a 46-40 lead, after he trailed 45-41 last month. Remington gave the governor a 48-45 lead. CNN had it tied, 49-49.

Again, Davis had led in some previous polls in the summer, although by small margins, too. The Democrat will need to do something to catch fire late in this race.

▪ Visits from big-name Republicans also have created media attention and energized the deeply conservative base of the GOP, especially in out-state Kansas.

Visitors for Roberts have included Arizona Sen. John McCain; Sarah Palin, McCain’s 2008 vice presidential running mate; and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Plus, former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole has been at a few appearances alongside Roberts, lending his credibility and popularity to the sitting senator.

Roberts’ campaign has drawn Texas Gov. Rick Perry and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, among others.

The Democrats? They have the best-known member of their party sitting in the White House, President Barack Obama, and he’s made exactly zero visits to Kansas.

▪ As more voters registered since the Aug. 4 primary, Republicans added more than 12,000 to their rolls, while Democrats gained fewer than 5,000.

Sure, Nov. 4 is still a long way off, in some ways.

Last-minute surprises could occur on the campaign trail, hurting one or both GOP candidates.

These changes could lead to the poll that really counts — Election Day — giving Orman and Davis somewhat surprising victories.

That might be for any number of reasons, especially if Kansans think deeply about what kind of positive changes could happen if they oust both Brownback and Roberts.

To reach editorial page columnist Yael T. Abouhalkah, call 816-234-4887 or send email to abouhalkah@kcstar.com. Twitter @YaelTAbouhalkah.