Looking back at Sen. Pat Roberts’ (R-Kan.) lengthy career on Capitol Hill, there’s something striking about his electoral background: he’s never really faced a tough race. As a U.S. House member, the Republican Kansan cruised to easy victories. As a three-term senator, each of his statewide wins has been by landslide margins.
And in a way, that’s unfortunate for Roberts – politicians who never experience a challenging election fail to develop valuable political skills. It’s like a muscle that can either grow stronger or atrophy from lack of use.
It’s become clear that Roberts, whatever his merits as a legislator may or may not be, never learned how to hit the trail like a pro.
Back in July, facing a primary challenge that shouldn’t have been close, Roberts told a radio audience, “Every time I get an opponent – I mean, every time I get a chance, I’m home.” The senator was struggling with questions regarding his in-state residency at the time.
After the primary, the longtime incumbent effectively stopped campaigning, with one of his top campaign officials announcing that Roberts had returned “home.” In this case, that meant going back to Roberts’ residence in Washington, D.C., since the senator doesn’t actually own a home in the state he represents.
Andrew Kaczynski uncovered the latest trouble for the incumbent.
Incumbent Kansas Republican Sen. Pat Roberts says he’s “damn proud” to live in Dodge City – noting he’s only been home “about seven times” this year – at a state fair debate with lurking independent challenger Greg Orman.“My home is Dodge City and I’m damn proud,” Roberts said in the debate.
When Orman noted in the debate that he’d probably been to Dodge City more often than Roberts this year, the senator interrupted to ask how many times he’d been to the city. Four times, Orman said.
Roberts responded he’d been to Dodge City “about seven times,” which may have been the accurate number, but was nevertheless the wrong thing to say.
As Chris Cillizza responded:
Ok. So let’s do some basic math. Saturday Sept. 6 – the day of the debate – was the 249th day of the year. So, that means that Roberts has been home, roughly, every 35 days this year since the start of the year. In a year in which he faced a serious primary fight. And where Congress had a month-long August recess. (If you want a contrast to the Roberts’ approach, take a look at Mitch McConnell, who, despite being the Republican Senate leader, has spent virtually every waking moment in Kentucky this year.)
As if this weren’t quite enough, we learned yesterday that on Roberts’ Federal Election Commission filings, the senator lists his home as his DC-area address.
A statewide poll released yesterday showed Roberts narrowly trailing his independent challenger, Greg Orman, 37% to 36%.