All things being equal, Republicans should feel reasonably good about winning the Senate in seven weeks. They currently hold a polling lead in six Democratic-held seats. They are within five points in another four seats, and mid-September polling often underestimates the position of the ultimate victor. Meanwhile, the two seats that were long thought to be vulnerable -- Georgia and Kentucky -- look reasonably firm for them.
But this is the Republican party we are talking about, and all else is not equal. Because of Kansas.
A new poll by Democratic polling outfit Public Policy Polling puts incumbent Republican incumbent Pat Roberts in the fight of his life, trailing by seven points against an independent challenger Greg Orman. The good news for the GOP is that a near majority of Kansans in the poll (49 percent) want the Senate to be held by Republicans next year. So, assuming Roberts frames the race as a contest between a Republican and an effective Democrat, he should close the gap.
But still -- it should never have come to this. In fact, the rolling disaster that is the Kansas Senate race serves as a pretty apt metaphor for the Republican party in the age of Obama.
On the one hand, we have Pat Roberts. At 78 years old, he has been in Congress since 1981, and does not really live in the state any more. He is the embodiment of the out-of-touch, behind-the-times, career politician. Put simply, he is the Republican establishment.
Little wonder that he faced a Tea Party challenge during the Republican primary. His opponent was Milton Wolf, a radiologist and amateur politician. During the campaign, the Topeka Capital Journal reported that he, “posted a collection of gruesome X-ray images of gunshot fatalities and medical injuries to his Facebook page and participated in online commentary layered with macabre jokes and descriptions of carnage.”
Roberts won the primary, albeit it not overwhelmingly. Sensing an opportunity, Democrats pushed their nominee to drop out of the race to give the “independent” Orman a direct shot. And here we are today.
Isn’t this so typical of the Republican party nowadays? Republican voters in Kansas got to choose between an out-of-touch establishmentarian or an inept insurgent. The dissension has given the Democrats a yet another cheap shot to sneak yet another Democrat into the Senate when a decent Republican should win easily. We’ll KS add it to the list: CO-2010, DE-2010, NV-2010, IN-2012, MO-2012.
So long as the Republican party retains this kind of schizophrenia -- old establishmentarians or questionable insurgents -- Democrats are going to keep winning by default. If Harry Reid manages to hold the Senate because of the dust-up in Kansas…well wouldn’t that just be typical.