Another week, another seven days when things appeared to slip away for U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts.
A new poll showed independent Greg Orman trouncing the three-term senator in Johnson County. In a personal misstep, Roberts suggested on a Senate form that he considers his Virginia home to be his chief residence — not Dodge City — resurrecting that old chestnut.
Conservative columnist George Will visited Orman and was impressed, concluding that the Olathe resident would increase the Senate’s “intellectual voltage.” Not hard to do, maybe, but still …
There’s more. Roberts’ former GOP Senate colleague Bob Bennett of Utah said publicly that Roberts had been too nonchalant about his re-election. Then Roberts blurted out that the country was heading for “national socialism,” a term that sometimes refers to Nazism.
The campaign had to clear that one up.
John McCain visited Kansas on the same day that the senator’s one-time campaign aide, John Weaver, called Roberts a do-nothing. Said Weaver: Roberts is “basically furniture.”
“Give the average Kansan 24 hours to come up with something Pat Roberts has done in the Senate,” he said, “and after 24 hours, even the crickets would be standing there befuddled.”
McCain took exception, calling Roberts “extremely productive” on farm and defense issues. But pressed to name a specific policy Roberts had championed and, well, more crickets.
At week’s end came buzz that the man Roberts vanquished in the primary, Milton Wolf, might back Orman. That’s the last thing he needs.
But deep in the dreary abyss that the 2014 campaign is for Roberts, he may still hold an ace. It’s a question aimed squarely at the heart of Orman’s never-seen-before Kansas campaign: Who is he?
Is Orman really a Democrat or Republican? Would he caucus with Senate Democrats or Republicans? Is he an amorphous opportunist or a man of principle?
The question lingers.
“What are you going to be?” Roberts thundered at the state fair debate a few weeks ago.
It was his best moment and a question Orman hasn’t answered squarely. McCain offered a variation Wednesday, insisting Orman really is a Democrat.
“He walks like a duck and he quacks like a duck, and he is a duck,” he said.
Like everything else this week, the line was off. Still, it’s the best Roberts has got. It might be enough.