We like to believe that money isn’t everything when it comes to match-ups in the general election, but in reality it can be a pretty good indicator of who will be the last ones standing come November 4. The U.S. Senate race in Kansas is grabbing national attention as independent candidate Greg Orman gains serious ground on the major party candidates.
Kansas has been considered a safe, solid-red state since Senator George McGill (D) lost his re-election bid in 1938. What is unusual about the 2014 race is that incumbent Pat Roberts (R) is locked in an unusually bitter primary struggle against tea party favorite Dr. Milton Wolf. Both are well-funded and eager to fight it out until the primary election in August.
The probable Democratic contender, Chad Taylor, is unlikely to be a major player in the outcome of this year’s election. Taylor’s most recent FEC quarterly report showed his campaign with only $10,000 of cash on hand — which is not going to pay for much campaigning. It seems as though the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) had written off Kansas as “lost” before the race even started.
Greg Orman is showing fantastic fundraising ability — raising $600,000 in only 6 weeks without the benefit of PAC money (the Orman campaign is not accepting PAC money) or personal loans from Orman.
Three scenarios for the general election are shaping up, each with unique opportunities and obstacles for the independent campaign.
On November 4, there will be three choices on the ballot for U.S. Senate: one Democrat, one Republican, and independent Greg Orman.
Independents are often portrayed as “spoilers” in three-way races — siphoning off votes from the major party contenders. Considering Taylor’s ineffective campaigning and lack of national party support, this is unlikely to be the case.
Orman’s strategy will be to gain the support of voters outside the Republican Party, including independent, third party, and Democratic voters. If his campaign is successful at reaching these key voting blocs, he will have a real shot at victory.
Whoever wins the Republican primary will come out of the battle badly damaged. Each candidate has significant weaknesses — ones that are being constantly exploited with each new barrage of attack ads. Capitalizing on these weaknesses will be key for the Orman campaign.
Roberts is exceptionally well funded, with over $2 million in cash on hand as of July’s FEC filing.
Fighting against an enormous war chest is difficult, but Roberts simply cannot shake the stigma of being an out-of-touch career politician — even within his own party. No matter what a voter’s political preference is, the term “career politician” leaves a bad taste in one’s mouth.
The Orman campaign is about bringing common sense, business-minded ideas to Washington. Orman’s insight as a successful businessman is his primary weapon in a campaign against Roberts.
Roberts has spent 47 years in Washington; Orman can focus his message on bringing fresh ideas to a broken Congress full of career politicians.
The tea party has made a lot of noise in the 2014 election cycle, highlighted by David Brat’s double-digit primary victory over now former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in Virginia’s seventh district.
For all their noise, the tea party has significant problems — they aren’t winning very many elections. So far in 2014, tea party-backed candidates have only beaten two incumbents in the primaries. Through June 24, tea party candidates have won 24 and lost 118 elections — not a good track record.
Orman’s ideology of being fiscally conservative and socially tolerant places him in a good position to be the “inclusive” candidate in the general election. In a heads-up match against Wolf, Greg Orman stands to gain the support of moderate Republicans who have been ostracized by tea party supporters as “too liberal” for the party.
A win by Greg Orman in Kansas will set the pace for further independent campaigns across America. While the deck is stacked against him, Orman has made incredible headway in fundraising and gathering petition signatures to get his name added to the general election ballot.
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