U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts did a decent job Saturday breathing life into his struggling campaign, continually fending off low-key challenger Greg Orman in a debate in Hutchinson.
Time after time, Roberts would give an answer to a question, and Orman would say “I agree” as part of his answer to the same question.
Roberts, a Republican, pressed Orman to state whether he would really be an independent, as he claims to be, if elected.
Orman too often stayed true to his root answers, which were to complain — accurately enough — about all the partisanship in Washington.
Problem is, Kansas voters need to see what Orman would do differently in the nation’s capital. And while Orman did point out a few differences with Roberts, he failed to attack intensely enough when he should have done so, such as on immigration reform and fiscal policies in Washington.
Roberts scored with his closing statement, when he said Kansans need someone with “backbone” and convictions as their senator. Roberts said he had both and said Orman lacked them. Ouch.
By contrast, Orman’s closing was rehearsed patter. He needed to hammer home differences with Roberts, which had been seen at this debate. He didn’t do that. He didn’t clearly explain what he would be able to do differently than Roberts in D.C.
Orman did get in a few licks, such as pointing out that Roberts is not as “fiscally conservative” as he claims. Instead, the sitting senator has voted for budget-busting bills.
Orman, an Olathe businessman, also finally zinged Roberts for foolishly bringing up Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid so often during the debate and said Roberts wasn’t really talking about how he would solve problems.
But there were too many cases — like on immigration and EPA rules — where Roberts would say it’s a big problem and Orman essentially would agree.
Of course, Roberts has been part of that problem while being in the Senate for 18 years, but Orman did not aggressively enough make that point during the debate.
Overall, in the next eight weeks, Orman will have to do a better job making it clear that, while he’s an independent, he also can take strong stands on issues and make a difference in Washington.
Roberts, it appears, will just keep talking a lot about Harry Reid and the Democrats in Washington.