Princeton Election Consortium

A first draft of electoral history. Since 2004

Could a Kansas independent shift control of the Senate?

August 27th, 2014, 2:36pm by Sam Wang


Normally, both Kansas Senate seats are deep red: one’s been Republican since Franklin Roosevelt was President, and the other one dates back to Woodrow Wilson. So it’s not surprising that even though incumbent Senator Pat Roberts has an abysmal 27% job approval rating, polls indicate that he would still beat his Democratic opponent, Chad Taylor. However, there’s a third option: independent Greg Orman. And a recent PPP survey indicates that Orman could beat Roberts one-on-one.

This is especially interesting because in the current polling snapshot, Republicans are most likely to control 50 or 51 seats. But what if a seat that is >90% likely to go red were suddenly to go to an independent? Check out the rest of the story here. (Then comment below.)

Update: I have more comments below: 

I encourage people to read Orman’s position statements carefully at his campaign website, especially involving caucusing. Note one possible issue: independents might not have the ability to vote for Majority Leader.

The PPP survey measurements are consistent with the following preferences:

D>O>R: 39%

R>O or D: 45%

O>R>D: 8%

O>D>R: 8%

where “>” means “preferred over.”

In other words, Orman draws supporters from both parties equally, and supporters of either the D or R candidate will vote for Orman before they will vote for the other party’s candidate. All of this is fairly symmetric. If the D candidate dropped out, Orman would win. I suspect the same would be true if the R candidate dropped out, but PPP did not survey that question.

Tags: 2014 Election · Senate

10 Comments so far ↓

  • Insidious Pall

    Ok, so Taylor gave up the ghost a few hours ago. Are we to infer that PEC now has the chances of Democrats’ retaining control at 85% based on the previous histogram?

  • WDR

    I’ve been thinking about how likely Orman is to be able to pull off a Ventura style upset. Jesse Ventura won the election for Minnesota Governor in 1998 as a third party candidate. As late as October, a poll showed him in third place with 35/34/21.

    Races with three plausible winning candidates are more complicated than usual two-way ones. There is a potential shift that can happen when the third candidate starts polling well enough that voters start to think they can actually win. People who vote for A over B because they don’t want C to win and are unfamiliar with B, or don’t think he has a chance to win, may reach a tipping point and swap.

    There are very few examples of that in recent U. S. history though, so it’s hard to draw conclusions.

  • 538 Refugee

    I think this article lays it out well. Basically, the Democrats might get Orman to caucus with them if they convince Taylor to drop out. Not sure that means much when you can’t count on the his vote. Appointments might be enough though. How real is that possibility though? His name recognition is still pretty low also but this is an election about ‘not Roberts’ it would seem.

    http://online.wsj.com/articles/political-diary-pat-roberts-has-a-problem-1408728371

    • Amitabh Lath

      So the PDFs for Orman to caucus with Dems is correlated to the PDF for Taylor to drop out. A 2-parameter PDF.

    • Jpell

      While obviously speculation since I know little about Kansas politics, its also seems possible to me that Taylor dropping out and endorsing Orman could change perceptions of Orman. Is it possible that fewer Republicans would support him if he was viewed less as a “true” independent, and more as a “de facto Democrat?”

  • Amitabh Lath

    Interesting.
    To do this right you need to create a probability distribution function (PDF) for Taylor dropping out, and another for Orman caucusing with Democrats. Then convolve to get the KS Senate estimate.
    I would guess the 1st to be a gaussian centered at say, 10% with a sigma of 10%. The 2nd, no clue.

  • Joseph

    The question is, is Mr. Orman pulling as many votes from Democrats as he is from Republicans, or more from one or the other? If he’s pulling significantly more votes from Republicans, then they may also be screwed if Mr. Taylor DOES stay in the race! This is possible because Mr. Orman isn’t well known yet, so his effect on a three-way race isn’t finalized.

  • WDR

    This might show the limits of the Republican strategy of negative campaigning and ‘linking’ of local candidates to nationally unpopular Democrats. It will be interesting to watch, that’s for sure.

  • 538 Refugee

    Interesting but I don’t see the Democrat dropping out. 6 points down in his mind means he only has to gain 3+ points against someone with a 27% approval rating. In a state that red maybe Taylor is thinking along the lines of Orman splitting the Republican vote since it was a close primary for Roberts?