With polls showing Sen. Pat Roberts in serious trouble against independent Greg Orman, top Senate Republicans, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, are leaning on big-ticket donors to fill the long-time Kansas senator's campaign coffers. Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and John McCain of Arizona are planning to barnstorm the state on Roberts' behalf. And in a bid to boost the senator's sagging poll numbers, the Roberts campaign is planning an ad blitz to cast his long record and seniority in Washington in a more positive light.
In an election season's closing weeks, pay no attention to what the parties and their campaign committees say about specific races. Rather, pay attention to what they do.
For example, consider what Republicans are up to right now in Kansas.
On the surface, Republicans have reason to be optimistic about winning the Senate majority. They're very likely to flip three blue seats -- South Dakota, Montana, and West Virginia -- and from there, all the GOP has to do is win three more toss-up races for a net gain of six. Pull that off while keeping red seats red and Mitch McConnell becomes the Majority Leader next year.
But if Pat Roberts stumbles in Kansas, which now appears to be a distinct possibility, the plan starts to look pretty shaky. Manu Raju reports on the GOP's political machine "kicking into overdrive."
Amanda Terkel added this morning that the Roberts campaign also launched robocalls statewide featuring a recorded endorsement from Mitt Romney. The message, according to the local AP, is intended to reach 400,000 Kansans before the election. (Romney won Kansas by 21 points during the last presidential election).
Republican operatives have also begun an intensive opposition-research initiative, hoping to dig up dirt of Greg Orman, Roberts' principal rival.
Asked what the GOP would do to save Roberts, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) replied, "Anything and everything."
In a nutshell, this is what electoral panic looks like.
For those who haven't been following this race, Roberts was largely considered a shoo in for re-election, but the incumbent struggled against a strange primary challenger. Even then, the senator returned "home" -- he largely stopped campaigning, returning to his D.C.-area home after the primary -- assuming victory in the fall was assured.
It wasn't. Roberts benefited from having multiple rivals, who would dilute the opposition vote, but Democrat Chad Taylor terminated his campaign last week, creating a head-to-head matchup pitting a struggling, longtime incumbent and a fresh-faced independent.
One statewide poll this week showed Orman with a one-point lead over Roberts, and given the obvious anxiety within the Republican establishment, it stands to reason internal GOP polling also shows the senator in deep trouble.