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Roberts still looking for friends in Kansas

Sen. Pat Roberts (R) has alienated moderate allies by moving to the right. Tea Partiers, meanwhile, aren't impressed.
Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., walks in the atrium of the Hart Senate Office Building on Feb. 4, 2014, Washington, D.C. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Getty)
Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., walks in the atrium of the Hart Senate Office Building on Feb. 4, 2014, Washington, D.C.
Sen. Pat Roberts (R), fighting to salvage his career in Kansas, has sounded the alarm within his party: come rescue me, he's told the GOP, or we're going to lose this seat and possibly a chance at a Senate majority.
And for the most part, Republicans are responding to the call. Notable figures from competing GOP factions -- everyone from Jeb Bush to Sarah Palin -- has made the trek to Kansas, trying to get the unpopular incumbent over the finish line one more time.
But as the Kansas City Star's Dave Helling reported yesterday, there are some within the party who remain reluctant to join the choir.

Former GOP Sen. Nancy Kassebaum Baker, Roberts' colleague and friend of more than 30 years, blames his rightward tilt for his struggles. "There's just disappointment around the state," she said. "They feel they don't know him now." Asked recently to tape a TV commercial for Roberts, Kassebaum Baker refused.

That's no small development. Nancy Kassebaum Baker, a former three-term senator from Kansas, was a lawmaker who believed in compromise and governing. In recent years, a stark division has emerged within the Kansas GOP -- the far-right vs. the mainstream -- and Kassebaum Baker has long represented the latter.
It makes sense that Roberts would reach out to her, looking for the former senator's support, but the fact that she refused to help the incumbent says a great deal -- about how far Roberts has gone, about the intra-party split, and about moderate Republicans' disappointment with what's happened to their party.
At the same time, however, while Republicans from the governing wing like Kassebaum Baker no longer have any use for Roberts after his shift to the right, Kansas Tea Partiers aren't impressed, either.

Kansas Tea Party supporters are threatening to sit out the state's pivotal Senate election, potentially dealing another blow to the reelection hopes of Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.). [...] Multiple sources tell The Hill that a group of Tea Party leaders in the state are meeting Wednesday to try to decide whether they should go to bat for the incumbent this fall or sit out of the race entirely. 

Roberts, you'll recall, faced a surprisingly tough primary fight against Milton Wolf, who challenged the conservative incumbent from the far-right. Many of those Wolf supporters apparently aren't sure whether to lend Roberts a hand now.
It's a familiar dynamic in contemporary Republican politics: a red-state incumbent shifts to the far-right, alienating the mainstream, only to discover conservative activists who are convinced he's not far-right enough.
There's still a chance Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach's (R) efforts to tilt the Senate race in Roberts' favor will pay dividends, though the odds are against it. Expect a court ruling today on whether Kobach can force Kansas Democrats to field a candidate, which might help split the anti-Roberts vote and undermine Greg Orman's independent campaign.