If you were to wager that Kansas is one of the most Republican states in the country, you would be right. How then, are the state's sitting Republican governor and senator fighting for their jobs with less than five weeks until election day?
In part because Kansas is more moderate than meets the eye.
New data from Gallup shows that in the first half of 2014, 47 percent of Kansans identified with or leaned toward the Republican Party. In only eight other states, as the following chart shows, is that percentage higher. Just 34 percent of Kansans sided with the Democratic Party.
But Republican does not always equal conservative. Kansas is proof of that. The Gallup data show that about as many Kansans (36 percent) identify as moderates as identify as conservatives (38 percent). Of the 10 most Republican states, Kansas is the least conservative.
Add to that the fact that the percentage identifying as or leaning toward the GOP is the lowest it's been in Kansas since 2009 and suddenly the political problems facing Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Gov. Sam Brownback (R) don't seem so strange.
Roberts is facing independent Greg Orman, who is pitching himself as a down-the-middle candidate who could caucus with either party if the majority comes down to him.
Brownback has faced a revolt from moderate Republicans displeased with his tax cuts and move to curtail education spending. More than 100 current and former GOP officials endorsed his Democratic opponent, state House Minority Leader Paul Davis, over the summer.
Roberts is trying to paint Orman, a past Democrat, as a liberal in disguise. A recent poll that showed Orman leading Roberts by 5 points also showed the independent winning nearly a third of Republicans. The numbers suggest that Orman's pitch as a centrist alternative to Roberts is resonating in the GOP. Roberts needs to reverse that or he could well lose his job.
The Republican playbook against Davis has been very similar to the one against Orman: Tie him to President Obama and the national Democratic Party, which are unpopular in Kansas.
If Davis and Orman can convince enough people they are moderates, there is definitely a path to victory for them. But if Republicans convince most of the electorate they are liberal Democrats, they will probably come up short.