Kansas Democrats got a double dose of good news Wednesday: A court ruled the party won't have to run a Senate candidate on the ballot, while a new independent poll showed Republican Sen. Pat RobertsPat RobertsGOP senators avoid Trump questions on rigged election More Senate Republicans pressure Treasury over debt-equity rules GOP leaders advise members to proceed with caution on Trump MORE and Republican Gov. Sam Brownback both trailing their opponents.
The court's decision fully removes one of the main barriers faced by independent Greg Orman, as he seeks a win in his fight with Roberts. Recent polling — including the new survey out Wednesday — has shown Roberts trailing Orman now that Taylor is out of the race.
The latest poll, conducted by Suffolk University for USA Today, gives Orman 46 percent support to Roberts’s 41 percent support among likely voters. It also gives Democratic gubernatorial candidate Paul Davis 46 percent to Brownback’s 42 percent support.
Orman appears to have considerably stronger crossover appeal than Roberts. The independent draws 30 percent of Republicans, while Roberts takes just 9 percent of Democrats. Independents break for Orman by five points.
The poll was conducted among 500 likely voters from Sept. 27-30 via landline and cellphone, and has a margin of error of 4.4 percent.
In terms of personal appeal, Roberts is deep underwater with voters, while Orman is largely seen positively. Thirty-nine percent of voters view both candidates favorably, but only a quarter view Orman unfavorably, while 47 percent hold a negative view of Roberts.
Roberts's job approval numbers fall along similar lines: 49 percent disapprove of the job he’s doing, while 37 percent approve. That puts him on par with President Obama in terms of the number of voters in the state approving of his job performance, though the share expressing outright disapproval of Obama is higher.
As for Orman, 14 percent say they’ve never heard of him, while 22 percent say they have heard of him but haven’t decided how they feel about him. Those figures represent an opening for Republicans, if they can define the independent negatively in those voters' minds.
Sixty-one percent of respondents say party control of Congress will be an important factor in their vote this fall, suggesting that Republicans have a shot at keeping Roberts in office, if they can convince the red state that a vote for Orman would jeopardize GOP control of the Senate.
That's been the GOP's main line of attack on Orman, since it became clear he was a threat. He has aimed to counter it by emphasizing his commitment to Kansas and knocking both parties as part of the problem. It's a message that features prominently in his newest ad.
"The truth is, both parties are more interested in political games than problem solving ... and both parties are failing Kansas," Orman says in the ad.