Senate races

Roberts, Orman exchange blows in debate

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Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and his independent challenger, Greg Orman, traded jabs in their second and final debate Wednesday night.

Sparring over issues from abortion to immigration, Roberts continued to paint Orman as a closet Democrat, while Orman asserted that he would be a much-needed independent voice in Washington.

{mosads}On the former, Orman struck a notably progressive tone for socially conservative Kansas.

He said he was pro-choice, and that he felt that it was time for the national conversation to focus on other issues.

“I think we spend a whole lot of time in this country talking about this issue, and we have spent a whole lot of time over the last couple of decades talking about it, and I think it prevents us from talking about other important issues,” he said.

Roberts responded indignantly.

“Get past the rights of the unborn? Get past the guarantee of life for those at the end of life? I don’t think you can say that with any degree of conscious,” he said.

Orman, in his rebuttal, cited Chief Justice John Roberts’s comments that Roe v. Wade is the “settled law of the land.”

They also discussed immigration. Orman said talking to Central American parents in an effort to discourage them from sending their children north was the only way to curb the influx of unaccompanied child migrants coming to the Southern border.

“I think we need to address that at its source,” Orman explained.

He also argued for comprehensive immigration reform that would include a path to authorization to immigrants in the country illegally.

Roberts said that any immigration reform would be impossible without a Republican majority in Congress. He accused Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of using the issue as a political tool.

Roberts made sure that the specter of Reid and President Obama hung over the entire debate. He has sought to cast Orman as certain to caucus with Senate Democrats, a move that could stand between the Republican Party and the upper chamber majority should Orman win. Roberts cited campaign donations that Orman, a wealthy businessman, has made to Democratic candidates.

“By deed and by word and by campaign contribution he cannot stand up to the Reid/Obama agenda,” Roberts said of his challenger. Orman was adamant that he has concerns with how both parties operate in Washington.

Even when the debate had moments of levity, there was never any doubt that the Kansas race has turned particularly contentious as the battle for the Senate reaches its final weeks.

The candidates were asked, as their final question, to say something nice about their opponent.

“I will have to say that every time I’ve had an opportunity to talk privately with the Senator, he’s been a gentleman with a great sense of humor,” Orman said, also praising Roberts’s service as a Marine.

Then, it was Roberts’s turn — and it appeared he could not resist taking one last dig at his wealthy challenger.

“I would say that you are a very well-dressed opponent,” he told Orman, who was wearing a dark suit, light-blue shirt and a purple tie with white and red stripes. 

“I admire your accumulation of wealth. I have a little question of how you got there from here, but I think that’s the American dream and I would hope that we could make that possible for everybody up and down every small Kansas community.”

—This post was updated at 10:00 p.m. 

Tags Greg Orman Pat Roberts

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