Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) told Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) that he may be the next victim of the anti-incumbent Tea Party mood sweeping America with the defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor earlier this year, Politico’s Manu Raju reports.
“I might be next,” a “deadly serious” Roberts told Corker on a ride on the underground senate subway, Roberts recounted in an interview with Politico’s Raju in Kansas. “You never know.”
Roberts was referring to how Dave Brat beat Cantor using an anti-incumbency style that Roberts’ current conservative primary opponent, Dr. Milton Wolf, is following. Wolf–President Barack Obama’s second cousin–has emerged as a leader in the Tea Party movement over the past few years, and his fiery style of anti-political class politics has played well into the conservative new media brand of grassroots politician.
Wolf’s story aside, however, Roberts’ situation is eerily similar to other incumbents who’ve been dropping at an abnormally high rate.
“He’s been dogged by questions over his residency ever since a February report in The New York Times that he rents a room in the home of longtime friends and donors when he returns to the state,” Politico’s Raju wrote. “Though Roberts does own half of a duplex in Dodge City that he has rented out for years and previously lived in, the issue is reminiscent of the problems that doomed longtime Indiana Sen. Dick Lugar two years ago.”
Raju asked Roberts about the residency question, at which point he sought to differentiate his situation from Lugar’s.
“Dick Lugar had his farm, for goodness sakes, and thought it was his home; that’s not the same thing,” Roberts said during the interview with his wife in the room. “I own the property there, I pay taxes there, I vote there. He didn’t do that.”
Roberts slipped up recently during a radio interview in which he said he only comes back to Kansas frequently when he’s got an opponent running against him in an election. “Every time I get an opponent — I mean, every time I get a chance, I’m home,” Roberts said during a radio hit last week in Kansas.
During his interview with Politico, Roberts said he has not tacked to the right since drawing the primary challenge from Wolf. “Everybody — some people say I have moved to the right,” Roberts said. “I haven’t moved to the right. I’m exactly where I was in the House. I’m exactly where I was in the Senate. The person who has moved is the president. And he has moved dramatically to the left.”
Roberts served in the U.S. House from 1981 to 1997 and is currently running for a fourth term in the U.S. Senate.
Roberts admits to having voted for previous big-spending bills that have added to the national debt, but defends his votes as reminiscent of a different era in government.
“I have voted for omnibus [spending] bills in the past; in the past, I have voted for [raising] debt ceilings, for instance,” Roberts told Politico. “But that was a time of war; we were doing emergency spending.”
Now, Roberts said, “all of a sudden, you are at $16 trillion debt. It’s astounding. Now, $17 trillion, $18 trillion.”