A internal poll conducted for independent candidate seeking to run for the U.S. Senate seat held by Pat Roberts shows less than majority support for the incumbent Republican.
But the Roberts campaign says the poll has no credibility.
The campaign of Greg Orman, a Johnson County businessman who previously ran for Senate as a Democrat, commissioned the poll conducted by Hamilton Campaigns, a Washington, D.C., consulting firm.
When asked if they would vote to re-elect Roberts or opt for an unnamed "alternative candidate," 40 percent of respondents selected Roberts, 50 percent said they wanted an alternative and 10 percent were undecided.
David Beattie, president of Hamilton Campaigns, said that shows there is room in the race for an independent.
“It's saying that there’s clearly a space open for someone," Beattie said. "It’s a sign there’s not a ton of strong loyalty.”
Leroy Towns, Roberts’ campaign manager, disagreed strongly.
Towns called the Hamilton survey an "idiot poll" and said asking voters to choose between a named candidate and an unnamed candidate is a useless exercise.
“You don’t know anything about the poll — it is designed only to prove a point and that is to boost Orman, at the expense of Roberts," Towns said. "He is just another liberal that hopes Milton Wolf can be a candidate.”
Wolf is a Tea Party-backed Republican who is challenging Roberts in the August primary. They are joined in the Republican primary by D.J. Smith and Alvin Zahnter, while Patrick Wiesner and Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor have registered to run for Roberts' seat as Democrats.
Orman's campaign provided a full copy of the Hamilton survey to The Topeka Capital-Journal but asked that some of its contents remain confidential because it includes questions to be used for campaign strategy.
The telephone poll included 500 respondents who said they are likely to vote in the November general election. Of those, 47 percent were registered Republicans, 28 percent were registered Democrats and 25 percent were registered with a third party or unaffiliated.
Orman needs 5,000 signatures to get on the November ballot. Beattie said that will be a measure of his legitimacy as an independent candidate, as will his ability to raise money.
"Greg, I think, has shown he has some success raising money, and I think that will be a benchmark,” Beattie said.
Federal Elections Commissions filings showing Orman's fundraising since he began his campaign should be posted online next month.
There are two Independents among the 100 current U.S. senators: Angus King, of Maine, and Bernie Sanders, of New Hampshire. Both caucus with Democrats, the majority party.
Beattie said that building name recognition also will be key for Orman and acknowledged that in a three-way race, 40 percent support for Roberts could be enough for the longtime senator to win re-election. But he said it still shows vulnerability.
“He doesn’t start with the kind of innate strength you would expect from someone who’s been in politics 47 years,” Beattie said.
Towns again disagreed, saying that a poll released in January showed 69 percent of voters would vote for Roberts and "things have not changed very much since then."
Towns said he had "several" internal polls that also showed Roberts with strong support but isn’t releasing them.
“People like Roberts," Towns said. "They like him across the board in every congressional district.”
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