- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 15, 2014

While Sen. Pat Roberts, Kansas Republican, pointed fingers at the president’s leadership style, his opponent, Greg Orman, an independent, accused Mr. Roberts of having to deal with a “crisis of leadership” of his own by shirking duties in D.C.

During a prime-time debate Wednesday, Mr. Orman criticized Mr. Roberts for taking a hard stance on protecting the country from foreign threats yet skipped a hearing in September on the Ebola threat.

“I think it’s inappropriate to talk tough here, and yet when you had an opportunity to do something about it, senator, you skipped the hearing,” Mr. Orman said.

Mr. Roberts defended the decision to miss the hearing, saying that it was held during September recess and that “nothing of substance came of it.” He said it is up to President Obama to take a leadership role in the Ebola outbreak that has seen some cases diagnosed in the U.S.

“We have a crisis of leadership, all right,” he said. “I think the administration — more especially, the president — has been two steps behind, asleep at the wheel. … It is the president we have to look to for this kind of leadership.”

Mr. Orman, who said he supports temporarily suspending flights between the U.S. and West Africa until the Ebola outbreak is contained, pointed the finger back at Mr. Roberts, saying, “I think that crisis of leadership is a crisis of leadership that you share in too, sir.”

The hourlong debate in Wichita on Wednesday evening marks the third and final time the two men will face each other before Election Day.

Neither candidate has an advantage with less than a month to go until the election, according to a RealClearPolitics average of polls on Wednesday that calls the race a tie. A Remington Research Group poll has Mr. Roberts up by two points, while a Public Policy Polling survey over the same time period has Mr. Orman up by three.

The outcome of the race could determine whether Republicans win control of the Senate in 2015.

Mr. Roberts has repeatedly used the familiar GOP argument that a vote for Mr. Orman is a vote for the president, Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, and continued gridlock in Congress. Mr. Orman, on the other hand, has painted himself as being outside of the partisan fray by running as an independent and not saying which party he would caucus with if elected.

When the Democratic candidate, Chad Taylor, removed his name from the ballot earlier this year, the race tightened. Mr. Roberts brought in several GOP figures to stump for him at events throughout Kansas, including 2008 vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin and Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida and a potential 2016 presidential contender.

Other big issues in the race have included whether or not to repeal the Affordable Care Act, how to defeat the Islamic State and the best way to reform immigration.

While Mr. Orman talked about his ideas to secure the border and create what he called a humane immigration policy that includes telling parents not to send their children to the U.S., Mr. Roberts simply said no progress would be made on immigration until Republicans take over the Senate, saying that Mr. Reid uses the issue as a political tool.

“You’re not going to get any immigration policy as long as Harry Reid is the majority leader of the Senate,” he said. “So until we put Harry Reid out to pasture and get a Republican majority, you can’t really consider immigration.”

When asked about the president using an executive action to make changes to immigration policy, Mr. Orman said he would not support the president going around Congress to get things done.

“I would also stand up and say President Obama shouldn’t act by executive action,” he said. “But that’s what’s wrong with Washington today — nothing gets done.”

Moderators also asked both candidates about their stances on abortion. Mr. Orman said he is pro-choice and said the women of Kansas are smart enough to make their own health decisions, which will free up legislators to talk about more pressing issues.

“I think it prevents us from talking about other important issues. What I’d like to see us do is focus on big problems we absolutely need to get our arms around if we’re going to preserve the American dream,” Mr. Orman said.

Mr. Roberts, who is pro-life, said that the country’s abortion law is not something that can be passed over.

“Get past the rights of the unborn?” Mr. Roberts said. “I think that’s unconscionable, Greg, I really do.”

To close the debate, the moderator asked each candidate to say something nice about his opponent. Mr. Orman thanked Mr. Roberts for his service in the Marine Corps and called him “a gentleman with a great sense of humor.”

Offering backhanded praise, Mr. Roberts complimented Mr. Orman on his fashion sense and smile, but questioned how he did business. “I admire your accumulation of wealth. I have a little question about how you got there from here, but that’s the American dream,” he said.

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