Democrat candidate drops out of Kansas Senate race

Whatever other tea leaves we might be reading for the November elections – polling data on individual races, presidential approval numbers, Democrats acting like desperate losers who will stoop to any despicable low in their quest to salvage a few votes – it seems significant that so many Democrat candidates are dropping out of their races after the primary season concluded.  Senator John Walsh, appointed to replace Max Baucus in Montana, dropped out of his election race early last month after it was discovered he had plagiarized sizable portions of his master’s paper at the Army War College.

There’s a good chance the Democrats are about to watch Mary Landrieu get knocked off the ballot in Louisiana by a legal challenge to her residency in the state.  Among other things, it has been discovered she actually crossed out the address of  her Washington D.C. mansion on her voter registration form, and scribbled in her parents’ Louisiana address instead.

Earlier this week, the Democrat candidate for Alaska governor, Byron Mallott, decided he couldn’t win against incumbent Republican Sean Parnell and switched his bid to lieutenant governor instead, forming a “unity ticket” with independent Bill Walker.

And now, in an even more desperate play that turned out to be legally dubious, the Democrat candidate for Senate from Kansas, Chad Taylor, tried to pull the rip cord and bail out of his race against Republican Pat Roberts, in a bait-and-switch routine intended to trick Kansas voters into handing victory to independent Greg Orman.  The whole scam was utterly transparent, and executed with agonizing clumsiness, as The Hill reports Taylor remains stuck to the ballot with a wad of legal chewing gum:

Two election law statutes have raised questions about whether Taylor gave sufficient cause to remove himself from the ballot, and, if so, whether Democrats must ultimately choose a candidate to replace him.

Kansas Republican Party Executive Director Clay Barker told The Hill that Taylor is now back on the secretary of State???s list of general election candidates, while a legal team analyzes the statutes. 

One statute declares that, except under specific circumstances, ???no person who has been nominated by any means for any national, state, county or township office may??? withdraw their name from the ballot after Primary Day.

Those circumstances include death, and if a nominee ???declares that they are incapable of fulfilling the duties of office if elected???by a request in writing.??? 

While Taylor did submit a request in writing to the secretary of State???s office withdrawing his nomination and asking to be withdrawn from the ballot, the letter makes no claim that the candidate would be unable to fulfill his duties if elected.

As a matter of fact, the letter makes no claims at all.  It just says, “I, Chadwick J. Taylor, Democratic nominee for the United States Senate race, do hereby withdraw my nomination for election effective immediately and request my name be withdrawn from the ballot, pursuant to KSA 25-306b(b).”  I guess it would have been too embarrassing to honestly add, “… because I can’t win, my party is desperate to hang on to the Senate, and the independent guy has a lot more money than I do.”

In fairness, Democrats are the party that thinks laws are mere suggestions to the Ruling Class, so it’s not that surprising a Democrat candidate would think it unnecessary to read every little sub-paragraph of the election laws before turning his candidacy into a kamikaze run at the Republican incumbent.

The Wichita Eagle gets in to the comically obvious reasons for this “stunning development” – so obvious that Taylor’s refusal to pick up the phone and discuss his earth-shaking move with anyone is completely irrelevant:

Orman???s candidacy, buoyed by television commercials and social media, has received national attention. Although he trailed both major party candidates in the polls, several analysts saw him as the candidate with momentum in the race. Taylor???s decision to quit came the same day that more than 70 former Republican lawmakers endorsed Orman.

???He???s created a buzz for himself, and that???s pretty impressive for an independent candidate,??? said Michael Smith, a professor of political science at Emporia State University.

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.

Maybe.  Or maybe they’ll conclude Orman is functionally a Democrat and saddle him with the baggage of a party whose drooping national profile is going to droop even further in the wake of Taylor’s retreat, while Roberts’ candidacy continues to heal from his tough primary battle against Dr. Milton Wolf, in a state that historically tends to provide firm political ground for Republicans to fight upon.  Also, Republicans and swing voters who haven’t been entirely pleased with Roberts might look at him in a new light, if they think Kansas could hold the key to control of the Senate after 2014.  One of the gripes against him in the GOP primary concerned how much time he spends in Kansas, a criticism that might become either more or less pointed as voters watch the Mary Landrieu clown show play out in Louisiana.

It’s worth noting that Public Policy Polling – far from the most reliable outfit – seems to have the only survey that shows a big lead for Orman in a two-way race.  Before Taylor dropped out, the RealClearPolitics polling average put Roberts ahead by over 8 points.  Of course that’s going to change now, with Roberts’ opposition less divided, but it seems fair to wait for Kansas voters to digest the new dynamics of the race and run a new set of polls before drawing any major conclusions.

Just last week, Taylor was talking a lot of smack about how Orman was a paper-tiger candidate who couldn’t win a debate.  That might cast a shadow over the hearts of Democrat voters who will now be told to pivot on a dime and throw their votes to Orman, especially if Taylor is still the booby prize on the ballot.  And if it’s true, then Roberts stands to gain a lot of momentum from sharing the debate stage with Orman alone.  As with many third-party and independent candidates, he runs into trouble when he has to say anything more complicated than “both of the existing parties stink” and tout himself as the “reasonable” alternative to nasty old partisan gangs:

[Emporia State University poli-sci professor Michael] Smith noted that Orman???s commercials, which show a winless game of tug-of-war between men wearing blue and red shirts, appeal to voters frustrated by partisanship but that the ads don???t actually say what Orman would like to accomplish if elected.

???It???s incredibly vague. He mentions no issues at all. It???s professionally produced. It???s slick and professional,??? Smith said. ???But it doesn???t contain any information about where he stands on any issues.???

For example, Orman’s all in favor of “fiscal responsibility,” just as long as you don’t ask him to do anything about it:

Orman emphasizes pragmatism when discussing issues. He has called for the country to get spending under control but has no plans to participate in the gamesmanship over raising the debt ceiling that has become routine in Washington in recent years.

???One of things we???ve talked about a lot in our campaign is that we need to start living within our means as a country,??? Orman said. ???But with that said, if I???m faced with the choice between defaulting on our debt and keeping our government open, I choose sanity.

???I???m a pro-sanity candidate,??? he added.

Uh-huh.  Enjoy that “sane” $20 trillion national debt coming your way, kids, and the even more “same” $30 trillion debt right behind it.  And don’t ask Orman where he stands on the struggle against barbaric terrorism, because he’ll just babble about how it’s all a super-complicated game of multi-dimensional chess, while the cavemen cheerfully go about their business of selling women into slavery and whacking off heads.  I’m having a hard time seeing where any of this allegedly “independent” candidate’s positions differ that much from the latest steaming pile of Obama talking points.  He seems mildly critical of the Affordable Care Act, so I guess that’s something.

 This passage from the Wichita Eagle on Orman’s appeal is interesting, because it spotlights both a problem and an opportunity for Roberts:

On Wednesday, Orman???s campaign announced an endorsement from Traditional Republicans for Common Sense, a group of former lawmakers that includes many of the moderates that endorsed Democrat Paul Davis over Gov. Sam Brownback in July.

???Our members know leadership, because they???ve been leadership,??? said Jim Yonally, the group???s chairman and a former state representative from Overland Park. ???Our members have been there. They???ve been on the front line. They???ve had to make the tough decisions.???

The group sees Orman as a pragmatist who can broker compromises between the two parties, said Rochelle Chronister, who previously represented Neodesha in the House and was chairwoman of the Kansas Republican Party.

???This has been the most do-nothing Congress ever,??? Chronister said. ???They can???t even pass an appropriations bill to keep the government running.???

Kansas might be a debacle for Democrats, but hasn’t exactly been a moment of glory for Republican “moderates,” either.  The thing about this “do-nothing Congress” is that one name towers above all others as the reason for gridlock: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.  He’s the one that’s been quietly murdering a long string of good bills from the House, using various parliamentary tricks such as “filling the amendment tree.”  Reid is a clumsy legislative assassin, but he’s clever enough to fool a media that doesn’t have the slightest interest in reporting on what he’s been doing.  And at the moment, he’s blowing off the entire remainder of the Senate session on a colossal time-wasting political stunt to repeal the First Amendment, conducted entirely for the purpose of shoring up his incessant attacks on the Koch Brothers, and give the Democrat kook base something to feel excited about.

So if you’re a Kansas voter truly concerned about “the most do-nothing Congress ever,” the very last thing you should do is vote for a Democrat-friendly independent as part of a last-ditch Democrat ploy to keep Harry Reid as the Majority Leader.  That seems like a fairly slow pitch across Pat Roberts’ political home plate.  If he can’t score at least a base hit with it, he really is in trouble.

The Eagle modestly allows that “money may have been a factor” in Taylor’s withdrawal, seeing as how “in mid-July, Taylor had $1,673 in his campaign account, compared with Roberts’ $1,445,897.  Orman’s campaign had $362,592.”  By Jove, I think they’re on to something here.  Money might just have been a factor indeed!

The Kansas City Star offers another possible reason for Taylor’s sudden exit: “Some said Democrats were worried that Taylor???s lagging effort could eventually hurt Paul Davis??? campaign for governor. Indeed, Taylor???s decision is likely to free up Democrats across the country to send more money to Davis in his campaign to unseat Gov. Sam Brownback.”  Davis is doing a pretty good job of sabotaging his own campaign without any help from Taylor, having just been forced to pull his first highly-touted advertisement because it featured an actor with a history of sex crimes.

Conversely, it has been suggested that Brownback’s tight race is hurting Roberts’ re-election bid, and Taylor’s exit from the race might drain money away from other contests into a suddenly more difficult Republican effort to hold the Kansas Senate seat.  It will be interesting to see how this all shakes out, especially if the Democrats can’t actually get Taylor’s name off the ballot, making it a bit uncomfortable for party power brokers to abandon their own candidate and throw their whole-hearted support behind Orman.  Not only would that be problematic for them in Kansas, but it’s the sort of thing that will contribute to the growing sense of unease about Democratic fortunes nationwide.  It’s not good for a party to look like a hot mess that can make no appeal to voters beyond keeping a white-knuckle grip on power.  Ask the 2006 Republicans about that.