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The Senate race in Kansas just got more interesting

By Steve Brusk, CNN
updated 10:15 PM EDT, Wed September 3, 2014
Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, is up for re-election this fall.
Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, is up for re-election this fall.
  • The Democratic candidate withdraws from the U.S. Senate race in Kansas
  • That means more support could go to the independent candidate
  • Republican incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts was once thought to be a shoe-in
  • GOP strategists are pushing Roberts to step it up

(CNN) -- A surprise in Kansas Wednesday night is setting the stage for an even more interesting U.S. Senate race this fall.

Democratic candidate Chad Taylor decided to drop out of the race, which means more support may go to an independent candidate against Republican incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts.

In a statement to the Wichita Eagle, Taylor said, "After much consideration and prolonged discussion with my supporters, my staff, and party leadership at every level, I have decided to end my campaign for the United States Senate."

The move came hours after independent candidate Greg Orman announced support from a group of moderate Republicans.

Orman's campaign may have a better shot now that the contest has narrowed to a two-person race.

After word spread of Taylor's withdrawal, Orman in a statement said, "This is certainly an unexpected turn of events. Chad Taylor is a committed public servant. He ran an honorable campaign and worked hard, and I wish him and his family well."

As CNN Chief National Correspondent John King reported Sunday on growing GOP concern about Roberts' campaign, the GOP needs a gain of six seats to win the Senate majority. If the party lost a Republican-held seat, such as the one in Kansas, it would have to win another Democratic seat toward the goal of netting six.

"A number of top Republican strategists who have seen the latest research say (Roberts' re-election) is now hardly a sure thing," King said Sunday, while Democrat Taylor was still in the race.

"These strategists are furious with Roberts personally, and even more so with a campaign team they say has not risen to the challenge. So there is mounting pressure on the other Kansas senator, Jerry Moran, who just happens to lead the National Republican Senatorial Committee."

King added that "leading GOP voices" are pushing the NRSC to get more aggressive, including pushing for a shakeup in the Roberts campaign team.

"And in the GOP super-PAC community, there are conversations that it might become necessary to spend money in a state that no one thought would be -- or should be -- on a 2014 list of potential Democratic pickups," King said.

If the GOP super PACs have to suddenly shift money to Kansas, "a few GOP challengers in other states could see their outside help shrink," King said.

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