Former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) is 10 points behind Democrat Barry Grissom in a head-to-head contest for the state's Senate race, according to internal GOP polling data obtained by The Wall Street Journal.
The survey found that Grissom led Kobach 52 percent to 42 percent, while every other Republican tested in a head-to-head matchup had at least an 8-point lead over the Democrat.
The poll also showed a generic Republican beating a generic Democrat by a 44-36 margin.
Republicans have offered public worries about the possibility that Kobach could win the Republican primary and be the party's nominee in the Senate race. Kobach was the GOP candidate for governor last year and lost to Democrat Laura Kelly.
The poll, which was conducted June 9–11 for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, found Kobach’s favorability rating underwater, with 32 percent of respondents viewing him favorably and 50 percent unfavorably. It surveyed 600 likely voters in Kansas, including 150 likely Republican primary voters, and has a margin of error of 4 percentage points.
Some in the GOP have expressed fear that nominating Kobach, a conservative firebrand who has staked out hard-line positions on immigration and election fraud, could jeopardize their chances of keeping the must-win seat in the Republican column next year after he lost the governor’s race last year. Democrats have not won a Senate race in Kansas since 1930.
“If it’s Kobach, hell yes, that’s a major race,” a veteran GOP operative with deep ties to Kansas told The Hill earlier this year.
The Kobach campaign, however, dismissed the poll, saying it is not consistent with over surveys.
“It's laughable that anyone is taking seriously a poll on a hypothetical match-up conducted 18 months before the election and prior even to Secretary Kobach's entry into the race. The reported favorable/unfavorable numbers are not consistent with other polls, which indicates that the sample of this June poll was not a representative sample,” Kobach campaign manager Steve Drake said in a statement to The Hill.
Kobach first announced his Senate bid in July to replace retiring Sen. Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsMcConnell gets GOP wake-up call Bob Dole, Pat Roberts endorse Kansas AG Derek Schmidt for governor Ex-Sen. Cory Gardner joins lobbying firm MORE (R) with a heavy emphasis on his support for President TrumpDonald TrumpOmar, Muslim Democrats decry Islamophobia amid death threats On The Money — Powell pivots as inflation rises Trump cheers CNN's Cuomo suspension MORE, who won Kansas by about 20 points in 2016.
Republicans have held out hope that Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoNo time for the timid: The dual threats of progressives and Trump Psaki: Sexism contributes to some criticism of Harris Mnuchin, Pompeo mulled plan to remove Trump after Jan. 6: book MORE, who used to represent Kansas in the House, would jump into the race, though he has not indicated if he will follow the urging of GOP leaders.
"I hear all the speculation. There’s a lot of people thinking about my future a lot more than I am," he said in a local interview this month. "I spend my days focused on delivering American foreign policy around the world, every hour, every day. That’s what I’m doing. I never vary from that."
Rep. Roger MarshallRoger W. MarshallMcConnell backs Herschel Walker in Georgia Senate race Thune endorses Herschel Walker in Georgia Senate race Vaccine 'resisters' are a real problem MORE (R), former Kansas City Chiefs player Dave Lindstrom, conservative commentator Bryan Pruitt and Kansas state Senate President Susan Wagle are also running in the GOP Senate primary.
Democrats are expressing confidence in Grissom's chances.
“Barry Grissom is the strongest Democratic candidate to run for the U.S. Senate in Kansas in a generation, and he looks forward to a General Election race against extremist Kris Kobach,” Jerid Kurtz, a Grissom campaign staffer, told the Journal.