Campaign 2020: U.S. Senate candidate forum

Published: Oct. 22, 2020 at 1:01 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Republican Roger Marshall and Democrat challenger Barbara Bollier faced off Thursday night for our U.S. Senate candidate forum. A new poll released on Thursday by the New York Times and Sienna College shows a tight race for the U.S. Senate seat in Kansas. The poll shows Bollier trailing Marshall by four points. This is based on 755 likely voters in Kansas.

Find out where each candidate stands on the issues important to you. You can rewatch the forum in its entirety, separated into three parts, in the clips below.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Eyewitness News spoke with Dr. Patrick Miller, an associate professor of political science at the University of Kansas, and Dr. Michael Smith, a political science professor at Emporia State University.

They said when it comes to the polling for this race, it shows it is too close to call.

“As a political scientist, especially after the debacle of 2016 and the misinterpretation of polling data, I would caution everybody to kind of get back to the fundaments of polling and not try to use to predict the winner of close races but to look for trends and themes. For example, for Kansas voters how important is security, how big of an issue is COVID. How do they feel about the economy?” Dr. Smith said, “If the race is within the margin of error, you cannot predict the winner but there’s a lot of cool data in public opinion polls if they’re done well you push past that.”

Dr. Miller said, “The polling has been remarkably consistent but we have to remember that polling has to be interpreted with a margin of error and if the margin of error shows the candidate has a small lead but you factor in the margin of error, ither candidate could be ahead in the polling, it shows there’s no clear leader in a race. We had polls throughout this race that have shown maybe Roger Marshall up a bit, maybe Barbara Bollier up a bit, maybe they’re tied but it’s not clear that there’s anyone really leading in the race among voters that have an opinion.”

With such a close race, Dr. Miller and Dr. Smith said the key is going to be turnout.

“Every vote throughout the state is going to count equally, no matter where it is, but I think the kind of math we saw with Laura Kelly, for example, winning the Kansas Governorship with relatively few counties in 2018 but she was winning in the populous counties where there were a lot of votes, we’ll probably see a very similar math in Kansas this year,” said Dr. Miller.

“There are voters who are answering that they are undecided. They do exist. With those voters, what we see is they frequently are leaning toward one of the candidates and waiting for that candidate to close the deal.” Dr. Smith said, “Again, they’re not 50-50 stuck right in the middle. They think they’re going to vote for one of the candidates but there’s something they’re wanting. There’s something they’re waiting for to close the deal.”

Another thing polling of Kansas voters has shown is there are voters who will be splitting their ticket when it comes to who they’re supporting for president and the senate.

“Who gets those undecided in the Senate race?” Dr. Miller said, “They do lean more toward Donald Trump in the presidential race but the question of can Bollier get some of them to split their ticket, vote for her will be a key thing.”

“If Bollier is really as competitive as the polls seem to indicate, given what we’ve seen from some other data, we know that Trump is winning Kansas as we predicted. So, one of the questions I would like to know more about is who are these Trump-Bollier voters," Dr. Smith said. "We know that there were Trump-Kelly voters in 2018. I’d love to know more about these Trump-Bollier voters and what they see in those two respected candidates.”

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