NBC News/Marist Poll: Orman Leads By 10; Gov Race Neck And Neck

By John Celock

Independent Kansas U.S. Senate candidate Greg Orman leads by 10 points in a new NBC News/Marist poll, which also shows the race for Kansas governor within a point.

The poll, released Sunday, shows 48 percent of likely voters surveyed backing Orman while 38 percent back U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.). The poll has Libertarian nominee Randall Batson polling at five percent with nine percent undecided. In the governor’s race, Democratic nominee Paul Davis leads Gov. Sam Brownback (R) 44 percent to 43 percent, with Libertarian Keen Umbehr polling at four percent.

The poll shows Orman taking his largest lead yet in the race against Roberts, which became more competitive last month after Democratic nominee Chad Taylor dropped out of the race. In the gubernatorial race, Brownback has closed a gap against Davis who has consistently led by high single digits all year.

Among those who indicated that they are undecided in the governor’s race, 43 percent said they are leaning towards Davis, while 41 percent are leaning towards Brownback. In the Senate race, 46 percent said they are leaning towards Orman and 36 percent said they are leaning towards Roberts.

The poll does show that both incumbents have higher negative ratings with 37 percent of those surveyed having a positive impression of Roberts and 47 percent holding a negative impression. Half of those surveyed indicated an unfavorable impression of Brownback with 41 percent holding a positive one. Among the challengers, 30 percent held a negative view of Davis, while 46 percent indicated a positive opinion of Orman and 26 percent indicated a negative impression.

The poll shows Davis, the state House minority leader, doing better among Democrats than Brownback is among Republicans. Eighty five percent of likely Democratic voters indicated support for Davis, while 78 percent of likely GOP voters indicated support for Brownback. Davis has been targeting moderate Republican voters during his campaign, zeroing in on education and tax issues. In July, Davis was endorsed by a group of 100 moderate Republicans, comprised almost all by former elected officials, including several who had lost 2012 GOP primaries to candidates backed by Brownback and conservatives. Moderate and conservative Republicans in Kansas have been engaged in a civil war in recent years, with conservatives unseating most moderates from the state Senate in 2012, but moderates waging war in this year’s state House primaries along with backing Davis.

In the Senate race, the poll showed that 48 percent of Orman supporters strongly backed the independent, while 40 percent of Roberts supporters did. In the gubernatorial race, 59 percent of Davis supporters strongly backed Davis while 55 percent of Brownback supporters strongly backed the governor. The poll also indicated that in the gubernatorial race that 72 percent of Brownback supporters were backing the Republican because they support him while 60 percent of Davis supporters indicated that they are backing the Democrat because they oppose Brownback or Umbehr.

Most polls in the governor’s race have showed Davis leading by between four and eight points since August. The Democrat has been zeroing in on voter anger with Brownback as a part of his campaign, stressing education spending and tax cuts.

Brownback and Republicans have been targeting Davis’ past support for President Barack Obama, along with a report last month that Davis was receiving a lap dance in a Coffeyville strip club during a 1998 drug raid. Davis was an attorney for the club’s owner and was not arrested in the raid, saying he was in the “wrong place at the wrong time.” The latest poll was conducted after Republicans had focused on the strip club report.

Obama, the son and grandson of Kansas natives, holds a 54 percent disapproval rating with Sunflower State voters, according to Sunday’s poll.

The income tax cut issue has become volatile in the state, with Davis arguing that the deep cuts backed by Brownback will bankrupt the state, while the Republican has argued that they will spur economic growth. Brownback has said will continue to pursue cuts if reelected, while Davis said he’ll freeze the cuts. Davis has argued that Brownback has cut education spending, while Brownback has said that he has raised education spending annually and blamed Davis for past state House votes to cut school spending. Brownback has also accused Davis of wanting to consolidate rural school districts, a charge the Democrat has denied.

In the Senate race, Orman has been on the rise since Taylor’s withdrawal, sending national Republicans scrambling to save Roberts in a race that could determine control of the Senate. The GOP has tied Orman to Democrats, saying he would allow Democrats to retain the Senate. Orman has not said which part he would caucus with. Roberts has shaken up his top campaign staff, replacing long time aides with GOP operatives dispatched from Washington. In addition, a long list of national GOP figures including former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.), U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin have appeared with Roberts at events in the state.