Traditionally Republican Kansas may keep Senate Democratic

When you think of the GOP, Kansas immediately comes to mind. Located dead center in the country, it conjures up rural images, small towns and plenty of farms and farmers.

{mosads}I know they have elected Democratic governors (the Dockings, father and son, and John Carlin) over the years, but this is a state about which it can be safely said is at its core rock-ribbed Republican.

One fact stands out above all — the last time Kansas sent a Democrat to the U.S. Senate was 1932. If you need more ammunition to make this essential point, the last time they voted Democratic in a presidential election was 1964. Before that, it was 1936.

But this year, Kansas may very well be the state that saves the Democrats from losing control of the U.S. Senate.

The incumbent senior Sen. Pat Roberts surely looks the part. At first glance he would not seem to be in jeopardy. Elected to the House in 1980, he is serving his third term in the Senate. Six years ago, he won 102 counties (out of 105). He is an ex-Mmarine and most important, a former chair of the House Agriculture Committee.

One little fact recently came out. Roberts, for all practical purposes, is not actually a resident of Kansas. He claims to live in Dodge City, Kan., but the truth is he rents a room as a guest of a friend. Most of the time, he lives in a northern Virginia suburb.

If you don’t think this is of major consequence, then I suggest you ask former Indiana Sen. Dick Lugar (R) how “residency” plays in your supposed home state. Lugar lost reelection for a seventh term when it was disclosed he used a hotel room as his official residence.

Voters are sensitive to matters like this. They naturally feel that their senator should be their neighbor. That they should truly live amongst them. Not too much to ask.

Independent candidate Greg Orman is Roberts’s main foe. The Democratic Party candidate Chad Taylor dropped out and his name will not be on the ballot. Orman is worth about $90 million. Before the campaign is over, many think he will spend some of that. He has railed against the “hyper-partisan” mess in Washington. He is positioning himself as not your conventional run-of-the-mill careerist politician.

Orman has bolstered his independent status by saying he would caucus with the party that wins control of the Senate. This reasoning makes him appear to be putting the interests of his state’s residents above his own personal ambitions. Smart move! Independent Sen. Angus King of Maine used this same tactic to win two years ago.

Former Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, her former running mate Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) have all campaigned for Roberts. The NRA is piling up money and ads for him as well. All this makes Orman look un-bought and un-bossed. I think there is a great hunger for someone who presents the picture of a lone underdog fighting the established order.

Roberts, like Lugar, may just have stayed too long. Worse, he is no longer considered a true Jayhawker. That means goodbye.

Plotkin is a political analyst and a contributor to the BBC on American politics.

Tags Greg Orman Kansas Pat Roberts Richard Lugar

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