Steve Rose

Milton Wolf should bring his tea party followers into Pat Roberts’ camp

Sen. Pat Roberts (left) could use an endorsement from Milton Wolf (right), his challenger in the August GOP primary.
Sen. Pat Roberts (left) could use an endorsement from Milton Wolf (right), his challenger in the August GOP primary.

If Milton Wolf endorsed Pat Roberts after Wolf’s defeat in the Kansas Republican primary for U.S. Senate, I missed it. And if he has, it is the best kept secret in Kansas.

I’ve checked everywhere on the web, and it isn’t there. I called Wolf to confirm, but I did not get a response. So, I think it is safe to assume the tea party challenger has decided, at least for now, not to endorse the victor.

This is too bad because Wolf — who amazingly carried 41 percent of the statewide vote against 48 percent for longtime incumbent Roberts — could really put a spark in the Roberts campaign. Roberts badly needs it, and that could have national ramifications.

Wolf, a radiologist from Leawood, carried Johnson County, only by a few hundred votes, but that was a major coup. Roberts needs Johnson County badly in his race against independent Greg Orman. Wolf’s failure to endorse would be declaring neutrality in a race where Wolf’s endorsement should be a no-brainer.

Roberts’s ultra-conservative voting record and Wolf’s positions on issues are almost identical. Orman is all over the map with his positions.

If Wolf supporters decided to sit out that race, in retribution for what some say was a nasty campaign, that could put Roberts in serious trouble.

Because there really was not much difference in ideology, both campaigns did resort to personal attacks. Have you ever seen a campaign that didn’t resort to personal attacks?

Roberts went after Wolf’s morbid humor in his Facebook antics. Wolf went after the 47 years Roberts has been in Washington and his questionable residency in Kansas.

That was not a particularly vicious campaign, although it almost sunk Roberts. If two minor candidates had not taken 11 percent of the vote, Roberts might have lost.

Perhaps the part that sticks in Wolf’s throat is the fact that Roberts refused to debate Wolf, or even to appear with him at the same event.

That was nothing more than a campaign strategy that may have worked for Roberts. An old Washington insider standing next to a young, fresh face with tea party credentials would have been risky.

If polls are any indication, Roberts is up against a viable opponent in November. Orman is an attractive candidate who has raised enough money to make a genuine fight out of this.

Democrat Chad Taylor has pulled out of the race, which allows the anti-Roberts vote to coalesce around Orman. As of now, Taylor’s name will be on the ballot, although the courts have not spoken on this issue.

Either way, Orman could defeat Roberts. At least, that is what the polls are saying right now.

And that, in turn, could conceivably keep the U.S. Senate in the control of Democrats, assuming Orman would decide to caucus with the Democrats.

How would that make Wolf feel, if he sat out a race that could have possibly swung the Senate to the Republicans? What a burden of guilt that would be on a tea party Republican to have sat on his hands, while the Senate went to the Democrats.

What voters should see during this campaign, particularly in Johnson County, is Milton Wolf on the same stage with Pat Roberts, one arm around him and one hand grasping Roberts’ hand over their heads in a sign of total support and, thus, total forgiveness.

There’s so much at stake, Wolf must rise above whatever feelings he has about Roberts and do what he knows is best for the country.

To reach Steve Rose, a longtime Johnson County columnist, send email to srose@kc.rr.com.

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