President Obama’s distant second cousin has taken family feuding to a new level in his bid for the Senate.
Dr. Milton Wolf, the radiologist challenging Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), told The Hill on Monday that while Obama’s a “nice guy,” he believes he’s “the worst president in our time, if not our history.”
Wolf says his mother realized after reading a newspaper article in 2008 about a great uncle who served in World War II, Charlie Payne, in which a “senator from Illinois” is mentioned, that Payne and Obama are related.
The Tea-Party-backed Wolf cited Roberts’s previous votes to raise the debt limit and approve his state’s former governor, Kathleen Sebelius (D), as Health and Human Services secretary as evidence the incumbent hasn’t been a true conservative during three terms.
Since announcing his run in October, Wolf has built his underdog candidacy around his opposition to ObamaCare, which he calls “immoral.” He’s introduced his own alternative to the healthcare reform law, but said he’d be willing to support any GOP alternative that offers patient-centered, market-based reforms.
“Look, ObamaCare has been such a disaster, an utter and complete disaster, that I bet even Obama wishes Ted Cruz had been successful in his filibuster in stopping that thing,” he said.
Wolf sees himself as a staunch conservative in the same vein as the freshman Texas senator, encouraging the comparison in his first radio ads last week.
Cruz this weekend set up a likely fight over the debt limit, which Congress will need to raise sometime next month, by declaring that he expects to gain some concessions from Democrats as a condition of raising it.
The Kansas Republican could be an even more conservative than Cruz in his approach, though. Wolf told The Hill that he would, under no circumstances, vote for an increase in the debt limit.
“When a nation spends trillions of dollars it does not have and sends the bills to a generation yet to be born, that’s not just a financial or economic problem, that’s not just a spending problem, that’s a moral problem. To put our kids under that burden, to ask them to pay the price for our sins, that’s immoral,” he said.
Asked whether he was then advocating default — which analysts say would be catastrophic for the U.S. economy — as a way to teach big-spenders in government a lesson, Wolf suggested Obama would get the blame, not Republicans.
“If President Barack Obama wants to bring this nation into default, then that would be his decision and that would be very regrettable. I want President Obama to take responsibility, and I want the Congress to take responsibility and get our budget under control,” he said.
Few Republicans have advocated such a hard-line approach to the debt limit, with most agreeing it needs to be increased to avoid default but that Republicans should use the increase as leverage to gain debt-reduction measures or some other concession from Democrats.
But Wolf has framed himself as a conservative stalwart, unafraid to break with party orthodoxy to stand by the Constitution. He accused Republicans in Congress during the early 2000s of creating the situation that’s caused the steep debt and deficit the nation faces today, and of electing Obama.
“We had the bank bailout. We had the auto bailouts. And then these establishment Republicans opened up the doors of the White House and rolled out the red carpet and invited Barack Obama in because of their failures,” said Wolf.
Wolf suggested he’d further break with party establishment by refusing to back Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) as the chamber’s majority leader, if Republicans take back the Senate this fall.
“I think someone like Ted Cruz or Mike Lee or Rand Paul would make a great Senate majority leader,” said Wolf, who added he “would look forward to casting a vote for a true conservative [as majority leader] in 2014.”
But Wolf faces a very steep hill to climb before he’s able to cast a Senate vote. Roberts’s campaign recently released an internal poll, conducted last week, that gave Roberts a 54-point lead over Wolf among GOP primary voters, with Wolf taking only 15 percent and another 16 percent undecided.
Roberts also takes more than 70 percent of the vote among the most conservative voting blocs polled, including those voters who describe themselves as “pro-life,” “strong Tea Party supporters” and “very conservative.”
Even among those voters that know who both of the candidates are, Roberts leads by 26 points.
Still, Wolf maintained he was confident he could close the gap by August.
“I’ve been campaigning for three months and up till now I haven’t spent a dime on advertising. He’s been in Washington for 47 years, and I’m taking 15 percent support from him? I think that’s pretty darn good,” he said.