Beloved Kansas State University football coach Bill Snyder on Thursday endorsed Sen. Pat Roberts for re-election and is appearing in a new television ad for the three-term Republican incumbent, potentially giving the GOP a boost in a race with national implications.
Roberts’ campaign launched the statewide spot just five days before the election, which has Roberts locked in a tough contest with independent candidate Greg Orman, a 45-year-old Olathe businessman and co-founder of a private equity firm.
Snyder is highly respected throughout the state and college football and has largely remained aloof from politics. His 6-1 Wildcats are the only Big 12 team without a conference loss and are generating buzz because they’re ranked ninth for a national football playoff spot.
The endorsement for Roberts comes with Republicans seeking to capture a Senate majority. They need a net gain of six seats, and they’ve always counted on the 78-year-old Roberts winning in a state in which the GOP has won every Senate race since 1932. But Roberts emerged vulnerable from a tough primary in August against a tea party challenger who portrayed him as out of touch, and Orman has painted the incumbent as part of Washington’s gridlock.
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In the new 30-second spot, Snyder describes Roberts as “a dear friend and a great friend of the state of Kansas.” Roberts’ campaign plans to spend “six figures” on air time, manager Corry Bliss said.
“I think his track record speaks for itself,” Snyder says in the ad. “He is as good as it gets for the state of Kansas.”
Orman’s campaign did not respond to the ad, but it’s been touting the backing of numerous newspapers while largely eschewing big-name political endorsements. He’s said repeatedly that voters are tired of partisan bickering and want problem-solvers in Washington. He is running as a centrist.
Snyder’s appeal is seen as nearly universal in Kansas. The 75-year-old Snyder took Kansas State from being a perennial loser and built it into a national football power as coach from 1989 to 2005, then returned to the job in 2009.