- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 11, 2014

Kansas’ longtime Republican Sen. Pat Roberts has suddenly found himself in tough re-election fight, jeopardizing the GOP’s quest this year to win majority control of the upper chamber.

The contest went from a cakewalk to an actual race for Mr. Roberts, a 17-year Senate veteran, after Democrat Chad Taylor abruptly dropped out last week, providing a burst of momentum for independent candidate Greg Orman.

The race between Mr. Roberts and Mr. Orman is a dead heat, according to a SurveyUSA poll released this week.

The poll showed that with ex-candidate Mr. Taylor’s name still on the ballot, Mr. Orman led Mr. Roberts 37 percent to 36 percent — a virtual tie.

The same poll last month showed Mr. Roberts with a 5-point lead over Mr. Taylor and a 17-point lead over Mr. Orman.

Republicans need a net gain of six seats to seize control of the Senate, and the GOP enjoys big leads in three of the races and has an advantage in at least four other states.

The unexpected troubles for Mr. Roberts only frustrates the GOP’s midterm math.

Mr. Roberts, 78, also struggled in the Republican primary against a tea party challenger, squeaking to victory with 48 percent of the vote.

Roberts being pretty much exposed as a weak candidate by both the primary election and by the [recent] polling results took everyone by surprise,” University of Kansas political science professor Burdett Loomis told FoxNews.com.

Mr. Roberts has reshuffled his campaign, bringing in GOP campaign pro Chris LaCivita. Meanwhile, party leaders are tapping major Republican donors to support the effort in Kansas.

In a sign of the hard-fought campaign ahead, Mr. Roberts has accused Mr. Orman of being a liberal in disguise.

Mr. Orman, a businessman, calls himself “fiscally responsible and socially tolerant.” He insists he is running as an independent because he’s been disappointed by both political parties.

Several reports indicate that Democratic Party leaders may have urged Mr. Taylor to step aside to clear the way for Mr. Orman.

Whatever the reason, Mr. Taylor is out and the race is on.

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