Roberts takes charge in Senate debate
© Greg Nash

Sen. Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsBudowsky: Warning to Senate Republicans The Hill's Morning Report — Negotiations crumble as shutdown enters day 17 Pompeo seen as top recruit for Kansas Senate seat MORE (R-Kansas) charged during Saturday's Senate debate that his independent challenger was spineless and lacked experience needed to change the upper chamber.

Roberts is facing off against businessman Greg Orman, who isn't affiliated with a party but has surged in polls since Democrat Chad Taylor attempted to drop out of the race this week.

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The 78-year-old three-term senator jabbed Orman's lack of party affiliation, saying leaders must have "conviction and a backbone."

"I don't think my opponent has neither," he said, at the Kansas State Fair where the debate was held.

The Kansas lawmaker repeatedly pressured Orman to pick a party, charging that in the Senate "you can't just waffle."

"You know, parties are not perfect -- everybody knows that. But there are somethings you can't compromise on," Roberts said. "[But] I just want to know when you're going to take a stand and tell us what party you're going to caucus with?"

Orman didn't answer. He said that he's "running as an independent to reject the false choices that the two party system has presented us with."

"Regardless of party labels, we are all Americans," Orman said. "We will rise and fall together."