Sarah Palin will campaign for incumbent Republican Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) in Independence, Kansas on Thursday. Roberts is in need of help from the Tea Party favorite, as recent polls show he trails independent Greg Orman in this fall’s general election.
Last week, the Kansas State Supreme Court granted Democratic nominee Chad Taylor’s request to be removed from the ballot, setting up a two-person race between Roberts and Orman.
Roberts defeated Tea Party challenger Dr. Milton Wolf in the August 5 Republican primary by a relatively narrow margin of 47% to 41% in a bitterly personal contest that left many grassroots activists in Kansas disgusted with the heavy handed tactics of the Republican establishment. Roberts was hurt by Wolf’s attacks on his residency claims, a weakness that may have sparked the strange turn of events that led to the withdrawal of Taylor and the rise in the polls of Orman.
The question is how far Palin’s appearance in Kansas on behalf of Roberts will go to bring the embittered grassroots back to the Republican side. With the race so tight, and with Orman appealing not only to Democrats and independents, but also disaffected “moderate” Republicans, Roberts is sorely in need of a boost from the grassroots.
Many Kansans, however, are skeptical that Palin’s presence for a single event will do much to change the simmering antipathy towards the Republican establishment felt by the grassroots. Palin’s impact in Kansas may be further lessened by the surprising fact that she did not endorse Wolf in his primary contest with Roberts.
Kansas Tea Party activists may not support Orman, who many view as a liberal Democrat despite his “independent” label, but they may be more likely to stay at home on election day than vote for Roberts, even with the one time appearance of Palin.
Steve Shute, for instance, a City Councilman in Gardner, Kansas and Tea Party activist, told The Hill on Tuesday “I don’t think the conservative grassroots in Kansas can be any madder than it is now. I don’t know if there’s the possibility for a reconciliation.”
Ironically, Roberts’ voting record, which had been sliding to the center prior to the announcement of the Wolf challenge, has, for the past year, been very conservative. He has a 93% rating during this session of Congress with the Heritage Action Scorecard, placing him as one of the top three most conservative Senators in Washington.
He also recently sided with Tea Party favorites Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Mike Lee as one of the 22 Senators who voted against President Obama’s request for additional funding to support the Syrian “moderates,” who will supposedly fight ISIS in Syria.
The race for the Senate in Kansas has already seen several unexpected turns over the past several months. Governor Palin’s appearance this week is just the latest twist whose full impact may not be known until election day.