The last time a Republican lost a race for U.S. Senate in Kansas was in 1932, the same year Herbert Hoover, scarred by the Great Depression, lost the White House to Franklin Delano Roosevelt. This year was no exception.
Despite a spirited campaign waged by Greg Orman, an Independent businessman, Pat Roberts, 78, was elected to a fourth term in the Senate, with 52 per cent of the vote. Mr. Orman captured 44 per cent, and others a total of 4 per cent.
Beginning with his eight terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, Mr. Roberts has represented Kansans in Washington since 1980, the year Ronald Reagan was first elected president. By the end of this new term, he will have been in Congress for 40 years.
Mr. Roberts has become such a fixture in Washington that he no longer even has a home in Kansas – he is reported to sleep on a friend's couch when he visits the state. Fully two-thirds of Kansans scolded Mr. Roberts for his absenteeism – but they voted for him anyway.
Indeed, according to exit polls conducted by CNN, 72 per cent of Kansans surveyed said they believed the country was heading in the wrong direction. Yet 63 per cent of these people voted for a man who's been in Washington for more than three decades. They perceive Mr. Roberts as part of the solution, it would seem.
Mr. Orman's entire campaign was predicated on the belief that a majority of people don't like the bickering and politicking of Washington and would view the long-time senator, backed by the big money of the right-wing Koch brothers, of Koch Industries, as part of the problem, not part of the solution.
Mr. Orman did well among the young, but their vote was lower than usual; better among women and the more educated, but Mr. Roberts did very much better among men and the less educated.
Mr. Orman also benefited by the fact that no Democrat ran for this Senate seat. The party decided in September that the best chance of breaking the Republican logjam was by stepping aside in favour of Mr. Orman. The Independent did take the vast majority of voters who identified themselves as Democrats. But it's small consolation in a state that's so overwhelmingly Republican.
The difference can be largely attributed to a better get-out-the-vote campaign, said Patrick Miller, political scientist at the University of Kansas. "Right up to the last week, the polls showed the race as a toss-up," he said. "In the end, the Republicans had a better election-day machine."
As well, extensive advertising, largely paid for by Koch-related foundations and political action committees, saturated the Kansas market for the past month. The spots all played the same note – that Greg Orman was just another Obama-loving liberal. That's just about the worst thing you can say about someone in Kansas these days, it would seem.