Last night, Sen. Pat Roberts became the most vulnerable senator in the country when his Democratic challenger, Chad Taylor, decided to drop out of the race. With Taylor out of the running, things looked more difficult for Roberts' re-election as Taylor’s supporters were probably going to swing towards Independent Greg Orman, the other candidate running in the race. Orman and Taylor have a lot in common politically, but all the future analyses about an Orman-Roberts match up should be nixed. Today, Kansas’ Secretary of State said Taylor’s name must remain on the ballot (via Roll Call):
Taylor’s exit could drastically change Sen. Pat Roberts’ re-election prospects, paving the way for independent Greg Orman to galvanize the state’s political center and left. In short, without a Democrat on the ballot, Roberts is the GOP’s most vulnerable senator this cycle.
But Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a Republican who backs Roberts, said at a Thursday news conference that Taylor did not provide evidence that he was incapable of “performing the duties of office” if he were elected, per state election rules.
Taylor released a statement shortly after the decision, saying he was told by Kobach’s office Wednesday afternoon that he had fulfilled the necessary measures for removal from the ballot, according to Kansas First News.
Operatives in the state say the decision is likely to proceed to court.
However, the state GOP is divided along moderate and conservative lines. Almost 170 Kansas Republican lawmakers, both former and current officeholders, have endorsed Greg Orman and Paul Davis, who’s the Democrat running against Gov. Sam Brownback. These divisions could lead to a 2002 replay, which saw Kathleen Sebelius winning the governorship in this red state.
What does this mean for Orman? How do you poll a race like this? These are just a couple of questions surrounding this race.
Some have suggested to poll the ballot... Others have said to leave Taylor off a poll. Another option is an informed ballot...— Harry Enten (@ForecasterEnten) September 4, 2014
If Taylor's on the ballot, it's a big problem for Orman, but it's not totally fatal. Doubt Taylor gets many votes. See: Schlesinger CT '06— Nate Cohn (@Nate_Cohn) September 4, 2014
UPDATE: National Republicans are moving in to help Roberts (via NYT):
But we're very plausibly talking about Taylor draining like 6-12 percent of the vote, or something. A big deal in a tight race.— Nate Cohn (@Nate_Cohn) September 4, 2014
National Republicans on Thursday moved to take control of the campaign of Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas by sending a longtime party strategist to the state to advise him, a day after his hopes for re-election and those of his party for taking control of the Senate were threatened by the attempted withdrawal of the Democrat in the race.
Also on Thursday, the Kansas secretary of state, Kris Kobach, ruled that the Democratic nominee, Chad Taylor, could not withdraw his name from the ballot, a move likely to set off further legal challenges in the race. The National Republican Senatorial Committee is dispatching Chris LaCivita, who has served as a political troubleshooter in past Republican campaigns, to counsel Mr. Roberts and help oversee his campaign.
The committee will also seek to hire a local lawyer in any legal challenge against Mr. Taylor, who had tried to drop off the ballot on the last day candidates were allowed to do so. Pat Roberts faces a tougher Senate re-election fight than might be expected, considering his advantages: incumbency, and being a Republican in a conservative state.
Mr. LaCivita is expected to be in Kansas by this weekend.