Democrat Laura Kelly gripped a slim lead over Republican Kris Kobach in the race for Kansas governor Wednesday by virtue of a poll revealing a majority of Kansans believe the state was moving in the wrong direction and interest in the November election was higher among Democrats than Republicans.
One week before the Tuesday showdown, a poll done by Ipsos in partnership with Reuters and the University of Virginia Center for Politics put Kelly at 43 percent and Kobach at 41 percent. The result reinforced previous surveys characterizing an outcome likely to be decided by which candidate coaxed key sectors of the electorate to vote.
"This is going to be a close race," said Johanna Warshaw, spokeswoman for Kelly. "The momentum is clearly with Laura Kelly in the final week. Kansans are ready to slam the door on the past eight years and go in a new direction. Laura is the leader we need to rebuild Kansas."
The poll showed 55 percent the Kansans surveyed felt things were on the wrong track in the state. Only 50 percent had that view of the country as a whole. A larger percentage of Kansas Democrats -- 47 percent -- said they had a great deal of interest in the 2018 mid-term election. It held that level of intrigue for 34 percent of the state's Republicans.
Kobach didn't comment on this round of polling, but the Republican secretary of state issued a statement praising his endorsement by a political action committee of the Association of General Contractors of Kansas. Kobach said it reflected his commitment to workforce training and creation of a positive business climate.
"We are looking forward to working with their members on solutions that keep our construction and engineering students in Kansas and attract the best professionals in those fields to come to our state," Kobach said.
A series of statewide polls have shown Kelly and Kobach in a statistical tie and independent candidate Greg Orman hovering at or below 10 percent. On Tuesday, Orman's campaign treasurer quit and endorsed Kelly.
Bob Beatty, political science professor at Washburn University, said polling in Kansas demonstrated Kelly was strong among Democrat and unaffiliated voters. He said Kobach, endorsed by President Donald Trump, would strive to hold Kelly below 12 percent among Republicans on Election Day.
"She’ll need as many as she can get as Kobach is aggressively trying to turn out conservative Republicans," Beatty said. "If Orman is hurting Kelly, it’s likely with unaffiliateds. Orman is garnering 15 percent of unaffiliateds, a group that the polls shows favors Kelly strongly."
Among independents, the poll said Kelly was favored by 56 percent to Kobach's 14 percent. However, Orman captured 9 percent of Republicans and 5 percent of Democrats, suggesting he may be penalizing Kobach.
The poll by Ipsos featured 986 likely voter respondents and was conducted Oct. 17 to Saturday. In terms of issues of most interest to Kansans involved in the survey, 25 percent said health care was No. 1. That was followed by immigration at 19 percent and morality at 11 percent.