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Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Kansas: Election-Day Predictions

Got back from voting about 40 minutes ago. At 6am there was a long line already. Of course there's always a bunch of early risers like me taking care of their civic duty, but still, it was impressive. Still more impressive was the age and ethnic diversity in the line, considering that our voting district usually appears pretty mature and white, and also the large number of advanced votes already marked down on the ledger. Makes me feel bullish, however idiosyncratic that evidence may be.

What an election season it's been here in Kansas! It's been decades since a November has rolled around with some genuinely competitive state-wide races on the ballot, and for a political junkie like me, it's been rather amazing to watch. And not just watch--I've found myself drawn into the coverage of these races (I've probably appeared on something close to 30 television news reports since August, with more to come later today), and I've involved myself in the campaigns themselves. In attending these rallies, talking with the organizers, hosting candidates and more, I've seen broader and more intense levels of local activism here in Wichita and around the state than I've ever seen before. And deservedly so: this, unlike so many other elections which take place in thoroughly Republican Kansas, is a genuinely important election, where our votes tomorrow won't just matter in a civic sense, but seem likely to matter for actual political outcomes as well.

Over the past few days, everyone has been asking me for my predictions, which is to be expected. On Sunday, the newspapers gave us a rundown on predictions from scholars at other Kansas universities who have been watching the elections like I have; I've already given my take on how things stood 20 days out, and 10 days out, but do I have any predictions for today?

Incumbent Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach vs. Republican-turned-Democrat Jean Schodorf. I'm going to go way out on a limb here and say Schodorf wins by a hair, despite Kobach having held on to a consistent--though small--lead in most of the (relatively few) serious polls which have included this race. Just wishful thinking? Probably--but also it's the fact that there has been a relentless ground game to reach out to Hispanic and African-American voters here in Kansas, and at least some evidence those very voters may have been undercounted in the midterm polls this time around. So I'm just going to take a leap of faith, inspired by what I've seen over the weekend and this morning, and say Schodorf pulls this one off, though probably by less than a point (meaning, of course, that you can expect our nothing-if-not-smart-and-determined current Secretary of State to use all the resources available to him to fight Jean for every single vote).

Independent newcomer Greg Orman vs. incumbent Republican Senator Pat Roberts. This is the race which I've been saying for a week or more is the most likely to go into the wee morning hours, but I'm not sure I believe that any longer. On the contrary, while I still think it'll be close, I don't think it'll be as close as the Secretary of State race, and we won't have to go too long after the polls close to make it clear that history is being made: a slight but difference-making number of Kansas voters (equal numbers moderate Republicans who were turned off by the embarrassing and desperate flood of money on Roberts behalf, and Tea Party Republicans who can't forgive him for his treatment of his primary challenger Milton Wolf), are going to send an independent to the Senate.

(Oh, and the Senate make-up? Well, in for a penny, in for a pound; let's let my bullish flag fly (though I'm not getting crazy or anything--I can still read the polls). The Republicans hold onto to Kentucky and they gain West Virginia, Montana, Arkansas, South Dakota, Alaska, and Iowa. The Democrats hold on to New Hampshire, North Carolina, and (surprisingly) Colorado; Louisiana goes to run-off in December, and Georgia in January. Greg Orman thus stands on November 5th as an independent in a Senate made up of 50 Republicans, 45 Democrats, 3 Independents, and 2 races yet to be decided. He'll be able to ask for just about whatever he wants from either party, and they'll give it to him in exchange for him joining their caucus. And he'll choose the Democrats, giving them two more years of Biden-tie-breaking control, because the Republicans have treated him like crap.)

Incumbent Republican Governor Sam Brownback vs. Democrat state representative Paul Davis. Put a fork in him; he's done. I mean, of course it'll still be close, and no, I wouldn't bet the farm on this outcome, or even $20. But $10? Yeah, probably. For heaven's sake, even the National Review, one of the flagship publications of American conservatism, says it's all over for Browback. The moderate Republicans which he and his acolytes and/or paymasters hounded out of office in 2012 have left his fold, and the more I hear from people I know--a former lieutenant governor of Kansas, a current state district court judge--the more convinced I am that the governor has failed to win these people back. Look for a new job, Sam; as of January, you'll need it.

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