Desperate times call for desperate measures, or so may go the thinking when it comes to Kansas' Senate race.
Political chatter has increased in the wake of a recent Public Policy Poll that shows independent Senate candidate and businessman Greg Orman leading Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) by 10 percentage points in a head-to-head matchup. The Democratic nominee, Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor, trailed Roberts in the poll by 4 points.
When PPP asked voters who they'd pick among Roberts, Orman, Taylor and libertarian Randall Batson, Roberts led with 32 percent of the vote.
A Tuesday New Yorker piece suggested that Orman could dislodge Roberts and prevent a Republican takeover of the upper chamber, which will happen if the GOP nets just six seats in November.
Though Kansas is a reliably red state, Roberts isn't popular: PPP showed that his approval rating is only 27 percent, which is even lower than the 33 percent of respondents who approve of President Barack Obama’s job performance. Roberts beat tea party candidate Milton Wolf by just 7 points in the primary, receiving 48 percent of the vote to Wolf's 41 percent. The senator was damaged, in part, by a February New York Times report that revealed he doesn't have a permanent home in the Sunflower State.
Despite Roberts' dismal approval ratings, Taylor faces long odds: Kansas hasn't elected a Democrat to the Senate since the 1930s. And that's where the idea about having Taylor recede out of the race emerges.
While Taylor's fundraising has been weak, Orman has raised over $600,000. Voters may find his description of himself as "fiscally responsible and socially tolerant" appealing. On his website, Orman says, for instance, that he trusts women "to make their own decisions about their reproductive health."
The independent recognizes the significance of his candidacy if the Senate's partisan balance is ultimately split.
"If I get elected, there’s a reasonable chance that neither party will have a majority in Washington," Orman told MSNBC's Steve Kornacki on Sunday. "If that is the case, I'm gonna caucus with whichever party is willing to actually go to Washington and start trying to solve problems as opposed to just pleasing the extremists in their own base."
Democrat Jim Sherow, who is challenging Rep. Tim Huelskamp in Kansas' 1st District, endorsed Orman on Sunday, calling him "the best choice to be our next United States Senator."
Sherow spokeswoman Lisa Hamer told The Huffington Post that though the candidate isn't calling for Taylor to drop out, he does think that "Kansas has been deprived of any voice for moderates in the state."
"That was our main goal in endorsing Orman, letting moderates know that we're there to represent moderates as well," Hamer explained. "As we travel around talking to ranchers, farmers and business people, they want compromise. That's been something thats been completely lacking."
Groups in the state such as Women for Kansas seem to agree with Sherow's thinking. The organization, which hopes to "unite and activate moderate, independent, and progressive women across the state" in support of issues like public education and voting rights, supports Orman, listing him as one of their "favorite candidates" alongside Democrat Paul Davis, who is mounting a strong challenge to Gov. Sam Brownback (R).
Taylor's campaign manager, Brandon Naylor, shot down any suggestion that he would withdraw from the race in a conversation with The Huffington Post on Tuesday.
"We haven't received any pressure, any direct inquiry to do so," Naylor said, arguing that Orman was spinning a "fiction" that the race is a two-way one, rather than between four candidates.
"No matter what fiction Greg Orman chooses to subscribe to, the end result is that we are the ones that are polling closer to Pat Roberts in the real world," he added.