In a poll released by SurveyUSA on Thursday, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Paul Davis widened his improbable lead over incumbent Republican Kansas Governor Sam Brownback. The poll shows Davis ahead by eight points, 48% – 40%. Back in June, Davis held a six-point lead over the far-right Brownback. When Davis first entered the race, it seemed almost inconceivable that he’d find himself in this position in mid-summer. After all, Kansas is one of the most conservative states in the Union. Mitt Romney carried Kansas by 22 points in the 2012 Presidential election and the state’s legislature is overwhelmingly Republican.
However, pushing an extreme conservative agenda has its drawback, even in the reddest of red states. Due to huge tax cuts that Brownback pushed through once he took office in 2011, the state is going broke. State and local government jobs have been slashed. The overall job growth for the state has been pathetic and is one of the lowest in the country. The state is dealing with an extreme revenue shortfall and it appears that Kansas will have to declare bankruptcy within the next two years if it continues along its current path. With the state running such a large budget deficit, basic services within the state have been cut.
This all explains why, despite its reputation as being a very conservative state, Kansas is turning its back on Brownback and getting behind a Democrat. Earlier this month, over 100 Kansas Republicans, many of them current officeholders, publicly endorsed Paul Davis. It was seen as an act of defiance as well as a statement to Brownback that right-wing ideology sometimes has to take a backseat to responsible governing. With the state going broke, government programs and services being slashed and job growth lagging behind the rest of the nation, more and more Republicans are getting behind a Democrat to fix the problems created by the current Republican Governor.
The poll shows that 29% of Republican voters now support Davis. Independents also favor Davis, as 48% say they prefer Davis to only 27% who support Brownback. Davis holds an insurmountable lead with moderates. Only 18% are for Brownback compared to 69% for Davis. Brownback is also suffering from a large gender gap as Davis is ahead with women by 15 points, 51% – 36%.
While we are still more than three months out from the election, and Kansas is a very conservative state, it is looking more and more likely that Kansas voters are going to kick Brownback to the curb in November. Brownback got into office due to his reputation as being a cultural warrior and a leader of the Religious Right, which plays well in a state like Kansas. However, what voters didn’t realize is that within three years of being elected, he’d push the state towards financial ruin. You can talk about guns, God and freedom all you want. However, you better make sure you don’t royally screw up the state’s economy while doing so.
Meanwhile, in Georgia, incumbent Republican Governor Nathan Deal is dealing with a real threat to his re-election bid as Democratic State Senator Jason Carter has an 8-point lead per the most recent poll. Deal is dealing with a messy ethics investigation into his 2010 gubernatorial campaign. This, along with his awful response to the ice storm that hit the state this past winter, has seriously hurt his popularity in the state. Like Michelle Nunn, the Democratic Senatorial candidate that currently leads in the polls, Carter has a familiar name in Georgia politics. While Nunn’s dad is former US Senator Samm Nunn, Carter’s grandfather is former President Jimmy Carter.
Another race that has become way closer than anyone would have initially imagined is in Oklahoma. Incumbent Republican Governor Mary Fallin probably figured that her re-election bid would be a cakewalk. However, a Republican-leaning poll has Fallin only up by five points, 45% – 40%, over her Democratic challenger, State Rep. Joe Dorman. Even though Oklahoma is considered the ‘reddest’ state in the country, Fallin’s approval rating is below 50%. Much of this could be her stance on education as well as her refusal to accept Medicaid expansion funds. While Dorman is not a well-known name and he has the huge disadvantage of being a Dem in a conservative state, voters’ dissatisfaction with Fallin and her policies could put him in the Governor’s office this November.