This is how it goes:
Despite dropping out of the Kansas Senate race this week, Democrat Chad Taylor will remain on the ballot, Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach announced on Thursday.
Taylor’s name could draw votes from independent Greg Orman, who is locked in a competitive race with Republican Sen. Pat Roberts. Orman has not said which party he will caucus with if he wins, and national Democrats are hoping he might deliver them an unexpected seat in November amid an uphill battle to hold the Senate.
Kobach told reporters that candidates must declare they are “incapable” of serving if elected in order to withdraw their name from the ballot.
“The law is the law,” Kobach said, according to The Kansas City Star.
Kobach’s decision could spur a legal fight, however. Taylor said in a statement that he had specifically asked and had been explicitly told by Kobach’s office that he would be allowed to remove his name if he followed the procedures they laid out.
Confused? Well, sure, why not? Still, though, for those to whom Kris Kobach’s name is already familiar, it is quite clear what is going on. Kris Kobach wants Chad Taylor on the ballot for the same reason Taylor and Kansas Democrats want him off.
The logic is simple; this is about taking a U.S. Senate seat away from Republicans. The polling shows Independent Greg Orman running a stronger campaign than the Democrat; it also shows that the vote against incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts (R) is split. Taylor can expect to finish third, behind Orman in second, and Roberts will return to the Senate. So this is how it goes:
Orman would lead Roberts 43 percent to 33 percent in a head-to-head race, according to an August poll from Public Policy Polling.
Another poll from SurveyUSA showed Orman was attracting voters from across the political spectrum.
“Roberts has the fight of his life on his hands. And if you were going to cast a vote right now, you’d be talking about Kansas sending, I believe, our first independent to Congress. This is huge,” said Chapman Rackaway, a professor of political science at Fort Hays State University. He predicted Taylor’s supporters would flock to Orman.
The Hays Daily News published an editorial last week calling for Taylor to drop out of the race in order to make room for Orman. And Jim Sherow, the Democratic House candidate in the 1st District, endorsed Orman over Taylor.
This isn’t personal; Taylor knows the score, exactly. What Kansas Democrats have done is undertake a painful calculation, and decide to play by the numbers; risking Greg Orman voting with Republicans on certain issues is a better payoff than ensuring Sen. Pat Roberts will support the Party line on others. It is a state Democratic Party at both its best and worst.
Voters are already accustomed, generally speaking, to Democrats poodling on issues like national security and civil liberties. The difference between Taylor, Orman, and Roberts, on some common, prominent issues, would be effectively zero. But when it comes to civil rights and socioeconomic justice, sure, there are some risks involved, but Orman is a better bet than Roberts.
And it is pretty clear that Chad Taylor simply can’t win.
This is pure politicking, a compromise by the numbers. Harm reduction, impact minimization. The Democrats are going to lose; this is the way they lose least. And the door remains open for the Party, as well as the people of Kansas in particular and these United States in general, to get at least a slice of victory.
With Taylor on the ballot, Sen. Pat Roberts wins re-election. With Taylor off the ballot, the odds are tipping toward the Independent candidate knocking off the Republican incumbent. And that pretty much explains why Kobach does not want to take Taylor off the ballot.
Then again, we might be on the verge of witnessing a spectace for the twenty-first century, a U.S. Senate candidate campaigning against himself. And that’s almost worth it, because Taylor’s supporters are smart enough that they know what to do next, which is simply vote for Greg Orman; and in the meantime, a Democrat will campaign against himself on the grounds that, “Regardless of party affiliation, this is simply what is best for the People of Kansas.”
If Chad Taylor actually finds himself compelled by circumstance to follow that route, and if he pulls it off, he can redefine campaign politics while reminding the American people in no uncertain terms that there really is a difference between the two major parties, regardless of how disappointed liberals might be about the Democratic Party. There is a reason most of the people who tell me the parties are both the same are predominately conservatives who don’t wish to be identified as Republicans; it’s an artificial boost to even their own moral perception of conservatism.
As Steve Benen noted, “A legitimate elections process isn’t supposed to work this way.”
Sarlin, Benjy. “Democrat Chad Taylor stuck on ballot in Kansas Senate race”. msnbc. 4 September 2014.
Lowry, Brian. “Democrat Chad Taylor drops out of U.S. Senate race”. The Wichita Eagle. 3 September 2014.
Benen, Steve. “Kansas’ Kobach won’t let Dem Senate candidate quit”. msnbc. 5 September 2014.