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Senate Outlook for 2008

Can Democrats Take Advantage of the Turf?

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Outlook: Solid Republican

June 17, 2008 Update:

A pair of Democratic-sponsored polls taken in early June both showed former Democratic Rep. Jim Slattery with a twelve point deficit to make up against Republican Sen. Pat Roberts. While one showed Roberts leading 48-36, the other showed a 50-38 advantage for the incumbent senator. Also notable was one of the polls showing Slattery with a 56% name identification, far behind Roberts’ total of 93%, but well ahead of most challengers at this time in the cycle. With Roberts, according to Democrats’ pessimistic projections, already near the crucial 50% mark, Slattery’s road to the Senate will have perhaps the steepest grade of any Kansas cartpath.

June 2, 2008 Update:

With Jim Slattery, a former Congressman and the 1994 Democratic nominee for governor, jumping into the race, Democratic prospects for a pick-up here improved, but only ever so slightly. Slattery brings the benefit of name recognition that his primary opponent, railroad engineer Lee Jones, simply can’t, but voters knowing Slattery’s name won’t be enough to unseat a popular Republican incumbent like Pat Roberts. Roberts appeals across the spectrum of Kansas Republicans, a party starkly divided between business conservatives and social conservatives; that divide helped carry Democratic Governor (and possible VP choice) Kathleen Sebelius to victory in 2002 and 2006. But since Roberts bridges the gap, he should be able to fend off his Democratic challenger, be it Slattery or Jones.

March 5, 2008 Update:

With virtually all of the major Democratic faces backing out of this race, Republican incumbent Pat Roberts seems to be in a pretty good position for reelection. Democratic leaders in the Sunflower State had hoped one of several current and former U.S. Representatives would step up to challenge Roberts, but none have materialized. The last Democrat standing appears to be Lee Jones, a railroad engineer and 2004 Democratic nominee for Kansas’ other Senate seat. Jones has been beat once, and nothing makes us think he won’t meet the same fate this time around. Roberts will hold this seat for the Republican Party.


Pat Roberts may need to change his address to Easy Street. As a Republican incumbent, first elected in 1996 with 62% of the vote, then reelected in 2002 with 83% (the highest rate for any statewide election in Kansas history), with no announced Democratic challengers, Roberts’ chances of election are through the roof.

Roberts replaced a retiring Senator in 1996, after 15 years of service in the House. He sits on the Senate Finance Committee, as well as the Select Committee on Ethics. Before the Democrats recaptured the majority in the Senate in 2006, Roberts served as the chair of the Select Committee on Intelligence, the committee tasked with investigating pre-Iraq intelligence.

Kansas Dems may think the 2006 election of governor Kathleen Sebelius gives them hope against Roberts. Sebelius’ name has been tossed around by some pundits in the state as a possible Democratic nominee, as have those of former U.S. Representatives Jim Slattery and Dan Glickman. Any of the three face an uphill climb; that is, if there are any hills in Kansas.


Pat Roberts (I) – Republican – current Senator

Jim Slattery – Democrat – former Congressman

Lee Jones – Democrat – railroad engineer, former Senate candidate