WICHITA, Kansas – For the Republican Party this week, there’s no place like Kansas. Sarah Palin, Rick Perry, John McCain, Bob Dole – stars from every corner of the GOP are converging on this deep red state to try to save some of the state’s top elected Republicans from defeat at the hands of Democratic and independent candidates.
Sen. Pat Roberts beat back a bruising GOP primary challenge only to find himself in very real danger of losing the general election to businessman Greg Orman, who’s running as a centrist independent. Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s experiment with fiscal austerity has backfired, and voter anger over the state’s sluggish economy and deep cuts to education has placed him in a tight race with Democrat Paul Davis. Even Secretary of State Kris Kobach – who made a national name for himself as the conservative author of anti-immigration bills in other states and who has played a starring role in this year’s Senate race – could lose in November.
The frenzy of activity is remarkable because for much of 2014, Kansas wasn’t even on the map of competitive states that will determine control of the Senate this fall. But then the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that Democrat Chad Taylor could remove his name from the ballot – with the resulting two-man race between Roberts and Orman putting control of the Senate on the line. Republicans need to win six seats to take control, and strategists in both parties concede that no matter who wins, the chamber will be closely divided next year.
To try to save himself, Roberts on Tuesday joined Dole, the 91-year old former Kansas senator and 1996 GOP presidential nominee, for events across his home region of western Kansas. On Wednesday, Roberts was scheduled to campaign with McCain; just a day later, he’s set to hold a pancake breakfast with Palin in Independence.
There’s more: Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is coming in for a fundraiser later in the month, and rising national GOP stars Paul Ryan and Rand Paul will also come in.
“The Republican Party is uniting around Pat Roberts because he is the only candidate in this race who will ensure Harry Reid is no longer in control of the Senate,” Roberts’ campaign said.
Brownback, meanwhile, was set to appear in Wichita on Wednesday for a press conference and fundraiser with Perry.