Trump Holds Small Lead in Conservative Kansas, Poll Shows

President Trump, who won Kansas by more than 20 percentage points four years ago, maintains only a single-digit lead in the state, according to a New York Times/Siena College poll released Thursday, an erosion of support that typifies his struggles in nearly every corner of the country as he fights for a second term.

With the clock ticking down before Election Day, the president leads Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic nominee, by seven percentage points, 48 to 41, among likely voters in a traditionally conservative state.

The abandonment of Mr. Trump by some voters whom Republicans could once rely on unfailingly has filtered down to the state’s Senate race, where the Democratic nominee, Barbara Bollier, trails the Republican, Roger Marshall, by just four percentage points, 46 to 42.

Kansas has voted for the Republican presidential nominee in the last 12 elections and is home to the party’s 1996 nominee, Bob Dole (who is now 97 years old). It is unlikely to stray this year. But the fact that the contest is so close in the state may presage a brutal self-examination for Republicans if Mr. Trump becomes the first president to lose re-election in a quarter-century.

Barely more than half of Kansans, 51 percent, approve of the job Mr. Trump is doing. Forty-five percent disapprove.

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“I don’t know anything about Joe Biden, and everything I know about Trump, I dislike, so you can say I’m voting for Biden because I can’t stand Donald Trump,” said Richard Loveall, 77, a retired computer programmer who cast his ballot for Mr. Trump four years ago because he didn’t like the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton.

His views of the president today are searing. “He has no integrity,” Mr. Loveall said. “He cheats all the time. He never does anything he said he’s going to do. He’s not a man who honors his word.”

The survey of 755 likely voters had a margin of error of four points. About 12 percent of voters said they preferred a third-party candidate, were undecided or refused to name a preference.

Mr. Trump’s final big opportunity to shift the race may be Thursday night in the last debate. But with one in five Kansas voters reporting that they have already cast their votes, the window is closing. Nationally, more than 45 million Americans have already voted, 33 percent of all votes cast in 2016.

The demographics of the voters’ responses in the poll in Kansas show the state’s fundamental rural and conservative alignment, although changes taking place in its suburbs are also evident.

Unlike in some swing states, Mr. Trump had the advantage with voters over 65, leading by 11 percentage points. The gender gap, which substantially favors Mr. Biden in more closely contested states, was narrower in Kansas: Mr. Biden led among women by eight percentage points, while trailing with men by 24 points.

But in the suburbs, where voters gravitating to Democrats have shifted races across the country since Mr. Trump came into office, voters narrowly favored Mr. Biden, 46 percent to 43.

Karen Reece, a retiree in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park, said she wanted Mr. Biden to “clean the rats’ nest out in the White House.” She called the former vice president “an honest, empathetic guy,” adding, “I think he will get things turned around to where we might be back to what we used to be.”

Mr. Trump’s overall lead was attributable to his strength in rural Kansas, befitting a state where 90 percent of the land is devoted to agriculture. Rural voters make up half of the state’s electorate, and Mr. Trump was dominant with them, outpolling his Democratic opponent 59 to 32.

Jonathan Hargrave, 50, a leather worker in the small town of Haven outside Wichita, said his vote for Mr. Trump was a vote to preserve a traditional America as he knew it.

“For one, I don’t believe in communism; that’s what Biden and their whole group is pushing,” Mr. Hargrave said. “Donald Trump is trying to protect our government and trying to keep what we had and what our forefathers had. He’s done a great job in keeping the economy in place. He wants to stop immigration coming over here, which is important — he’s doing everything a president should be doing.”

The Kansas race has not featured as prominently as some other contests, but could prove important in the battle for control of the Senate. To win a majority, Democrats need a net gain of three seats if Mr. Biden moves into the White House — four if he does not.

Outside groups backing both Mr. Marshall and Ms. Bollier have poured in money, as Democrats sense a chance to win their first Senate seat in the state since 1932. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report rates the race as Leaning Republican.

Ms. Bollier, a state senator, was a Republican herself until switching parties in 2018, amid a revolt by moderates against hard-line conservatives in state government, who pursued damaging tax cuts and socially conservative policies.

Mr. Marshall, a congressman, won his primary by defeating an embodiment of that conservative order, Kris Kobach, a hard-line supporter of Mr. Trump. Mr. Marshall had the support of Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Senate majority leader, who was worried then, as he is now, about losing his gavel in an anti-Trump backlash.

Here are the crosstabs for the poll.