In Toughest Race Of His Life, Pat Roberts Defeats Greg Orman [VIDEO]

Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter
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Kansas Republican Pat Roberts overcame the biggest test of his political career by defeating independent Greg Orman, a Kansas City-area businessman, in one of the most closely watched races in the country.

CBS News called the race with Roberts carrying 50 percent of the vote versus Orman’s 45 percent. Libertarian candidate Randall Batson captured around four percent.

The most recent poll released before the election, from the Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling, had Orman leading Roberts 47 to 46.

Roberts’ struggles against Orman, a 45-year-old Kansas City-area businessman, had their origin in the incumbent’s tough primary against Milton Wolf, President Barack Obama’s distant tea party cousin.

Wolf called into question Roberts’ Kansas residency, and not without evidence. Roberts listed his primary residence in Virginia, and when he visited Kansas, he rented a room from a constituent. Roberts even joked that he lived on the constituents’ recliner.

Orman, who spent $3 million of his own money in the campaign, only became a true contender in September after Democratic nominee Chad Taylor announced he was taking his name off of the ballot. (RELATED: Pat Roberts’ Democratic Challenger Quits)

Besides having deep pockets, Orman was seen as a more polished candidate with a strong business background. He began gaining ground on Roberts and Taylor in August with a series of straight-forward and well-produced ads touting himself as a “problem solver.”

Taylor’s decision to withdraw from the race sparked a dramatic standoff when Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a Republican, said that the Democrat had not completed the paperwork required for him to legally remove his name. By the time Taylor’s error was announced, the deadline for candidates to take their names off of the ballot had passed.

But Taylor challenged Kobach’s decision, and court eventually agreed with Taylor and allowed his unconventional decision to proceed.

Roberts was not pleased with Taylor’s late move, stating publicly that he believed national Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, had intervened to get Taylor, who had failed to raise much money, to drop out of the race. Missouri U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill is the only Democrat known to have inserted themselves into the race. She admitted to having talked to Taylor about his decision to quit the race.

Both Roberts and national Republicans, who desperately needed Roberts’ seat in order to reclaim a majority in the senate, entered a near state of panic. The first poll released after Taylor requested to remove his name from the ballot had Orman with 37 percent of the vote versus Roberts’ 36 percent. (RELATED: This Latest Kansas Senate Poll Should Worry Republicans)

Roberts fired his longtime campaign manager Leroy Towns, and brought in several outside Republican operatives, Corry Bliss and Chris LaCivita.

Orman’s lead in one poll, an NBC News/Marist survey taken at the end of September, grew to ten points.

But Roberts chipped away.

He blitzed the airwaves with ads accusing Orman of being a liberal Democrat masquerading as an independent. In the ads and in their three debates, Roberts pointed out that Orman had donated to both Democrats’ campaigns, as well as Hillary Clinton’s. Orman also ran briefly as a Democrat in 2008 against Roberts, who was ultimately re-elected unchallenged. (RELATED: In First Debate, Pat Roberts Goes Aggressive)

In Roberts’ thinking, Orman was hiding behind the independent label hoping to fool some voters who would otherwise refuse to vote for a Democrat into casting a ballot for him.

When Orman attended a New York fundraiser hosted by progressive billionaire George Soros’ son last month, the Roberts campaign pounced.

Some outside observers characterized Orman’s strategy as one of “running out the clock.” He refused to say which party he would caucus with if elected, saying only that he would choose whichever held a “clear majority” in the Senate and that he would not be “a silent soldier” to either party. He also said that he would be more than willing to switch caucuses if elected, arguing that he would be able to use that power to the benefit of Kansas voters.

He also offered vague answers to questions about his positions on hot-button issues like immigration and abortion.

Orman’s caginess was captured on camera in two instances. One showed Orman nearly running away from a man who asked him about his stance on Obamacare. In another video, a woman asked Orman his position on abortion. Orman pulled away from the woman and directed her to his website. Roberts and his surrogates used both videos in their attack ads.


Orman’s campaign was clearly less aggressive than Roberts’. He called Roberts “part of the problem” with Washington. Orman mostly stuck to selling himself to voters, touting his business acumen, which has helped him amass a fortune of between $21.5 million and $86 million, according to financial disclosures.

But Roberts even found ways to slam Orman on that.

Orman was a friend and business associate to Rajat Gupta, a former Goldman Sachs board member who is in prison for insider trading, Roberts informed voters in numerous ads. Orman also invested in a Las Vegas shrimp farm that received federal loan guarantees but quickly went bust.

Roberts complemented his attack strategy by bringing in nearly every high-profile Republican in existence. Republican Sens. Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Mike Lee – all tea party favorites – stumped for Roberts. Former presidential nominee Mitt Romney and New Jersey Gov. Chris Cristie also showed up to lend a hand.

Bob Dole, a former Kansas senator and presidential nominee and one of the most popular politicians in the Kansas history, also criss-crossed the state with Roberts.

Roberts also got a late boost when Wolf, his former foe, endorsed Roberts, albeit tepidly. While it was clear in his endorsement that he still harbored resentment towards Roberts, Wolf urged constitutional conservatives to back the Republican ticket. Roberts also received an endorsement from the Tea Party Express. (RELATED: National Tea Party Group Throws Weight Behind Pat Roberts)

As with many other contests throughout this midterm cycle, the Kansas race was not without it verbal missteps.

The most recent came on Friday, when Orman called Roberts’ Republican-filled bus tour, the “Washington establishment clown car.”

The problem for Orman was that Dole was one of those politicians.

Dole said he was disappointed by Orman’s remarks. Orman said that his comments were taken out of context. The Roberts campaign quickly capitalized on Orman’s mistake by issuing a robo call which went out to as many as 1 million voters in the state.


After Dole told a reporter that Orman had apologized for the remark, the Orman campaign corrected Dole saying that the candidate had not issued an apology. Dole shared an email Orman sent him in which the candidate tried to clarify his remarks, saying he respected the former presidential candidate and urging him to call him personally.

Roberts found himself in the middle of a minor mix-up involving the airing of an ad featuring an endorsement from his friend Kansas State University football coach Bill Snyder, a popular figure in the state.

Snyder said that it was probably a mistake for him to endorse a candidate on camera and said he regretted doing so. The Roberts campaign said that Snyder was aware when he gave it that his endorsement would be aired.

The Roberts campaign said on Sunday it would take down the ad, though the spot did air on Monday.

Vice President Joe Biden found a way to insert himself into the race on Tuesday when he said during a radio interview that Orman “will be with us” – meaning on the side of the Democrats. The Orman campaign quickly issued a statement saying that their candidate has never talked to Biden and that he would not be beholden to either part. (RELATED: Biden: Kansas Independent ‘Will Be With Us’)

The Roberts campaign sprung into action, issuing yet another robo call.

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