Bernie Sanders and Angus King could have a couple new friends in their tiny, and informal, caucus of independents in the Senate next year.
The self-financed independent in Kansas, Greg Orman, has built a steady lead in his race against longtime GOP incumbent Senator Pat Roberts, while a new poll out Wednesday showed another unaligned hopeful, former Senator Larry Pressler, ascending in South Dakota.
The surprising strength of Orman and Pressler raises the possibility that the Senate will have more members who were not elected on a party ticket than it has had in more than a century.
"Usually there are no more than two in a Congress," said Donald Ritchie, the Senate's historian.
According to records kept by Ritchie's office, the Senate hasn't seen four independent or third-party members serving together since the 1890s, with the exception of a brief period in the late 1930s when an independent and a Progressive served alongside two senators from Minnesota's Farmer-Labor Party before it merged with the Democrats.
Victories by Orman and Pressler could have significant ramifications for the balance of power in a chamber that is expected to be closely divided between Democrats and Republicans.