A new poll completed ahead of President Donald Trump's visit to Kansas affirmed Democrat Laura Kelly leads Republican Kris Kobach in what increasingly appears to be a two-person contest for governor, while GOP nominees in four other statewide races hold significant advantages over Democrats.
The poll produced by the right-leaning Remington Research Group indicated Trump, who easily carried the state in 2016, was viewed favorably by 49 percent and unfavorably by 45 percent of Kansans. Forty-eight percent of those polled said the United States was on the wrong track, but 42 believed the opposite.
In the governor's race, Kelly was at 42 percent to Kobach's 41 percent. The Remington poll of 1,680 likely general election voters had a margin of error of 2.4 percent.
Independent Greg Orman polled at 10 percent, suggesting his campaign was still struggling for traction. Libertarian Jeff Caldwell was at 2 percent and independent Rick Kloos at 1 percent. Only 4 percent in this poll were undecided.
The Kelly campaign responded to the Remington poll by pointing to evidence the Topeka Democratic senator had backing from Republicans and independents. Kelly spokeswoman Johanna Warshaw denounced GOP nominee Kobach for promising a return to policies championed by Gov. Sam Brownback from 2011 to 2018.
"Kansans from across the political spectrum want to end the Brownback experiment," Warshaw said. "While Kris Kobach has promised to double down on the Brownback agenda, Kansans know that Laura will take the state in a new direction and bring Republicans and Democrats together."
Kobach said he anticipated a Trump bump after the Saturday rally hosted by the president in Topeka. Kobach, the secretary of state, won the GOP primary in August against Gov. Jeff Colyer by less than 350 votes.
"Every Republican candidate in a close race can use a presidential visit (and) can use a bump that the president provides," Kobach said.
Kobach said he didn't disagree with predictions that no candidate for Kansas governor in 2018 would surpass 50 percent in the general election.
Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle, who endorsed Kobach in the primary, said the Remington poll confirmed her biggest worry heading into this election cycle. She fears voters could be lulled into skipping the mid-term election in Kansas after Congress delivered federal tax cuts and with the national economy growing.
"Complacency is the enemy of success in the state and our country," Wagle said. "If Republicans don't turn out to vote, we will be left with the party of obstructionists who are willing to pull whatever political spectacle it takes to push their progressive and destructive agenda."
The Wichita political action committee Kansans for Jobs and Opportunity financed the poll by Remington, a division of the Axiom Strategies consulting firm that works with Republican candidates.
Travis Smith, a partner at Axiom, said other recent polling examined Kansas races through a lens that anticipated 2018 turnout would resemble the presidential election in 2016. However, he said, Kobach and other Republican candidates would benefit if GOP turnout was at the level recorded in the last mid-term election in 2014.
"Other pollsters are pegging turnout this election in Kansas to be similar to 2016. If that's the case, the GOP will be in trouble. Kansas Republicans need to put all their energy into making sure their people turn out at usual mid-term levels," Smith said.
The latest poll, conducted Sept. 30 to Oct. 1, affirmed another reality of the campaign known to Kobach and Kelly. Kobach was viewed favorably by 38 percent, but unfavorably by 49 percent. Kelly's numbers were more positive: 43 percent favorable and 28 percent unfavorable.
Orman, mounting an independent campaign in a deep red state amid what could be a national Democratic uprising, said he didn't put stock in the latest poll. He said he remained convinced he would prevail on Nov. 6.
"Polls are unreliable, biased and most often wrong," Orman said. "Any poll can be manufactured to create a predetermined outcome simply by over sampling one group of votes or under sampling another group."
In the four other statewide races on the ballot, Republicans held an advantage over Democratic and Libertarian candidates in the Remington poll.
Attorney General Derek Schmidt was at 53 percent against Democratic nominee Sarah Swain's 36 percent. In the open state insurance commissioner's race, state Sen. Vicki Schmidt registered 52 percent to Democrat Nathaniel McLaughlin's 32 percent.
State Treasurer Jake LaTurner, appointed to the post by Brownback, leads with 47 percent to Democrat state Sen. Marci Francisco at 37 percent. The three-person contest to replace Kobach as secretary of state looked this way: Republican Scott Schwab, 43 percent; Democrat Brian McClendon, 34 percent; and Libertarian Rob Hodgkinson, 5 percent.