Steve Rose

July 5, 2014

Will ‘right’ (Pat Roberts) or ‘far right’ (Milton Wolf) be the victor in the GOP Senate primary in Kansas?

If the tea party voters of Kansas want to vent their rage and frustrations, they should save it for 2016, when the presidency is on the line. To wage a midterm insurrection over Sen. Pat Roberts, a man whose voting record reflects most of what the tea party wants, makes no sense.

To have a legitimate tea party rebellion, like they did in Boston Harbor in 1773, you throw things overboard in a fit of rage.

Are Kansas primary voters angry enough to throw Pat Roberts overboard?

Recent polls indicate that the three-term U.S. senator from Kansas is fairly safe against his tea party opponent, Milton Wolf.

Only, as Roberts knows all too well, polls showed U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia, House Majority Leader, way ahead also, just before he got trounced by a nobody, low-funded tea party opponent in the Republican primary.

But Roberts is further to the right than Cantor.

The Washington Times, arguably one of the most conservative newspapers in America, said, “Pat Roberts has amassed one of the most conservative records in the Senate.”

And then it declared, “So it was a surprise to many analysts this year when a Republican primary challenger…would run against the three-term senator.”

But why?

Roberts is not infallible, as his opponent has pointed out.

The senator has not spent enough time at home. Several years ago I wrote a column calling him a “ghost” because he was seen so rarely. That got his attention, and he paid a visit not long after.

Roberts, unlike Bob Dole or Nancy Kassebaum, both former Kansas senators, does not like to schmooze. But that should not disqualify him for the Senate. That is just his style. Roberts gets things done, but coming around to shake hands is not one of his attributes.

Roberts also failed to establish a viable residence in Kansas, a stupid slip-up after he saw former Sen. Dick Lugar of Indiana get beat because he didn’t have a bonafide residence in his state. Dumb as that was, it is not a cardinal sin. There is no doubt Roberts is a Kansan through and through so he should be forgiven for neglecting to purchase a home in the state and put his name on the mailbox out front.

Roberts has spent a lifetime in Washington, with 16 years in the House and now 18 in the Senate. The tea party automatically figures if you have been there that long, you have been corrupted and become an inside-the-beltway animal. This is not necessarily so. Roberts has been an extraordinary representative of his constituents back home and reflects the conservative nature of Kansans. He should not be punished precisely because he was re-elected so many times.

Roberts is a ripe old 78 years. To those in the tea party who want a “fresh face,” the elder statesman makes a good target. But — maybe because I am no spring chicken — 78 is not all that old to me. The man is sharp. He is healthy and vigorous. Why in the world should he be treated like a leper? After all, of our nine Supreme Court Justices, three are in their late 70s, and one is in her early 80s.

Back to The Washington Times, which is a harsh critic of any legislator who is not conservative enough for them.

Said the newspaper: “Roberts voted in lock-step with the far right of his party on a variety of issues.”

For moderate Republicans, like myself, that sends a chill up my spine.

But everything must be put in context.

The opponent of Roberts claims to be to the right of ultra-conservative Roberts. That would make him far, far right.

For those who lean that far over on the spectrum, Roberts may look like a liberal, even though the American Conservative Union has given him a lifetime 86 percent rating.

You can get more conservative, but not by much.

If the tea party succeeds in throwing Roberts overboard on Aug. 5 it will be because they are just plain angry, and Roberts is in their cross-hairs for being the incumbent.

He does not deserve the wrath.

If the tea party voters of Kansas want to vent their rage and frustrations, they should save it for 2016, when the presidency is on the line.

To wage a mid-term insurrection over a man whose voting record reflects most of what the tea party wants makes no sense.

To reach Steve Rose, a longtime Johnson County columnist, send email to

Related content



Editor's Choice Videos