Kansas Senate Race 2014: ABC News' '14 For 14'

Kansas Senate Race 2014

— -- ABC News' "14 For 14" project is documenting 14 races that matter between now and November. This page will be updated throughout the year. See the full list of 2014 midterm election contests the ABC News political team is tracking.

THE PLAYERS

THE STAKES

Kansas hasn’t elected a Democrat to the U.S. Senate since before the United States entered World War II, and that likely won’t change with this year’s midterms either. However, Democrats may now start rallying around Independent Greg Orman, who recently saw his campaign thrust into the national spotlight after the state’s Democratic nominee Chad Taylor attempted to withdraw from the race. The move ignited a series of legal battles that resulted in Orman and Roberts in a one-on-one runoff with no Democrat on the ballot. The late-cycle shifting poses yet another potential obstacle in the way of Republicans securing the Senate this fall. The former Democrat Orman has said he approves of neither Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid nor Senate Minority Leader Republican Mitch McConnell, but he will “work with the other independent Senators to caucus with the party that is most willing to face our country’s difficult problems head on.” With three-term incumbent Roberts now finding his seat in play, it’s not just reelection, but the very balance of the Senate that could be in his hands.

THE OUTLOOK

Kansas voters have been sending Roberts to Washington since 1981, but a growing number of critics are now saying he has become too cozy in his Alexandria, Va. digs. Roberts survived his primary against Tea Party challenger Milton Wolf by just 48-41 percent, but he can expect more attacks on his loyalty to the Sunflower State as he ramps up his campaign in these final months. Before Taylor’s withdrawal, Roberts barely had an eight-point lead over him in most midterm forecasts, but one Public Policy Polling survey is likely to make for a more tense September and October than Roberts originally hoped for. That survey assessed what an Orman/Roberts runoff might look like and it put Orman up on the three-term incumbent 43 to 33 percent. As for the issues at play, the traditionally red state is seeing some serious blowback from voters over a series of income tax cuts that left the state’s budget with a significant revenue shortfall. That led more than 100 Republicans in the state to throw their support behind the state’s Democratic gubernatorial candidate, putting incumbent Gov. Sam Brownback on the defensive. In early September, Orman announced that he had received similar endorsement from past and present Republican lawmakers over Roberts. But that doesn’t mean the state is turning blue. Roberts responded to Taylor’s attempted drop, calling it a ploy by Democrats to hoist up Orman as their wolf in sheep’s clothing. With Kansas seemingly in the midst of a Republican identity crisis, it’s made way for a Midwestern matchup that both Democrats and Republicans appear not to have anticipated.

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