WICHITA, Kan. – “Or-Man.”
That was the new moniker given Thursday to Kansas senate candidate Greg Orman at a kickoff to Roberts’ bus tour which featured a couple of Republican heavy hitters in Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn.
Both favorites among conservatives, Cruz and Coburn are appearing as Roberts faces the challenge of his life from the well-financed independent whose victory could help Democrats retain control of the Senate.
The twist on Orman’s name was meant to call attention to what the Roberts camp considers the challenger’s fence-sitting on various issues, including which party he will caucus with if elected.
Roberts has repeatedly hammered Orman, citing his past campaign donations to Democrats as evidence that he is a liberal posing as a centrist. The 78-year-old incumbent hopes to convince voters that a vote for Orman is a vote for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Cruz was the event’s main draw, with Roberts calling him “the man” and comparing him to a prairie fire.
The Texan said he is campaigning for the incumbent now after Roberts stood with him last year during a high-profile 20-hour-plus filibuster against Obamacare.
“A year ago last week when I was standing on the Senate floor filibustering on Obamacare, Pat Roberts was one of the handful of senators who came down and stood by my side and said Obamacare is a disaster and we’ve got to stop it,” Cruz reminded the audience packed tightly into the Wichita Area Builders Association building in downtown Wichita.
Cruz also played on his heavy support among small government conservatives and the tea party.
“We had a hard fought primary in the state of Kansas,” said Cruz.
He was referencing Milton Wolf’s GOP primary challenge of Roberts. Wolf, who often cited Cruz as a sort of senatorial role model, left Roberts battered and bruised by hammering Roberts on residency issues.
Cruz sought to bring those critics into the fold and to show up to the polls in November.
“But let me urge you, if you’re frustrated with Washington, the answer is not to stay home and keep Harry Reid as the Majority Leader,” Cruz argued. “If you’re frustrated with Washington, the answer is not to empower the liberal Democrats,” he continued.
Cruz’s endorsement influenced the lone Wolf supporter in attendance at the Thursday’s rally.
“I will go with Ted Cruz no matter what,” said Ollie Angell, who was the only rally attendee carrying a Milton Wolf sign. “Ted Cruz could help any Republican.”
Angell told TheDC that he hoped Cruz would convince Roberts to adopt a few of Wolf’s issues, such as the fair tax.
According to Angell, Roberts told him at the rally that he was seeking Wolf’s endorsement. TheDC could not confirm that as Roberts had left the venue by that time.
“Kansas is the stopping line where we start taking our country back,” Coburn told the audience while also adopting the “Or-Man” dig.
In an interview after the press conference, Coburn, who is leaving the Senate in January, was critical of Orman’s refusal to pick a party to caucus with if he is elected.
“It’s nonsense. I think it’s a scam,” Coburn told TheDC.
Orman has said that he will caucus with whichever party holds a clear majority in the senate. He has also said that he would consider changing his mind on who to caucus with down the road.
“The fact that he won’t speak the truth and he won’t be succinct tells you he’s spinning everything that he says,” Coburn added.
The race was upturned last month when Democratic nominee Chad Taylor took his name off the election ballot, clearing the way for the well-financed Orman.
An NBC/Marist poll released last week had Orman leading Roberts 48 to 38. Another SurveyUSA poll released earlier this week had him leading Roberts by five points.
Roberts saw a little daylight on Wednesday with the release of two national polls. A CNN poll had Roberts up by one point. A Fox News poll put Roberts five points ahead of the challenger.