Keep snoozin', Pat
After the tremendous hubbub generated Wednesday night when Democrat Chad Taylor unexpectedly dropped out
of the Kansas Senate race, a bit of reality has begun to seep in on both sides. Most importantly, Secretary of State Kris Kobach did a solid for his fellow Republicans and decreed that Taylor had not properly removed himself
from the ballot because his letter of withdrawal failed to specify that he's "incapable" of serving if elected.
Kobach, a notorious xenophobe and birther, claims that Taylor had to cite that exact language, per a Kansas statute. Taylor instead referenced the statute and says that Kobach's office told him in advance that his wording was acceptable. Democrats are incensed, and while the state party hasn't announced a response yet, litigation seems likely.
Kobach actually has a competitive re-election fight of his own (the most recent poll had him tied with his Democratic opponent, Jean Schodorf), so he probably wouldn't enjoy an ugly, protracted fight. Schodorf's already bashing Kobach for being a partisan stooge, but Kobach's a true believer and likely to sail this ship to his doom if need be.
Yet even if Taylor can be pried off the ballot, it's possible Democrats might still be forced to select a replacement. In that case, the solution is obvious: Find a guy named Pat Roberts. But speaking of Pat Roberts (the Republican senator), things aren't looking pretty for him at all. The perspicacious Nathan Gonzales unearthed a brutal quote from Roberts' campaign manager following his boss' (rather weak) win in last month's Republican primary that just underscores exactly what Kansas voters are eager to punish him for:
"He went back home for two days or three to rest. I think he's going to come back here the first of next week."
"Back home," in this case, meant Northern Virginia, an amazing error for a candidate who just spent the better part of a year getting beaten up for his disappearance
from his home state. Even more amazingly, Roberts has vanished: Despite his manager's claim that he'd "spend every moment between now and the election in Kansas," Gonzales reports that Roberts "has not been actively campaigning for about a month now."
That explains why the NRSC has decided they need to come in and bail out Roberts' flailing operation, detailing fixer Chris LaCivita (who will only work part-time, out of D.C.!) and hiring local legal help to deal with Taylor's ballot status. But beefing up Roberts' staff won't be easy, as Alexandra Jaffe points out, because nearly all quality GOP operatives in the state have long since been absorbed by Gov. Sam Brownback's desperate campaign, which needs all the help it can get.
So can Republicans save both incumbents? Well, if Taylor stays on the ballot, that could help Roberts a bit. But Taylor's dropped out and won't actually campaign, so he probably wouldn't pick up more than a tiny share of the vote, and independent Greg Orman could still overcome that leakage. The one two-way poll of an Orman-Roberts matchup gave Orman a 10-point lead, and what's more, Taylor's departure sharply increased the odds that Democrats retain the Senate, increasing their chances from 46 percent to 56 percent, according to the Daily Kos Elections Poll Explorer.
But even if the race is actually tied, Roberts is still in trouble. So is Brownback, whom our polling-based model currently rates as having just a 25-percent chance at re-election. No matter what ultimately happens in either contest, though, the fact that Kansas Republicans are in such dire straits is a remarkable turn of events, and it may turn out to be the story of the year.