- Associated Press - Friday, September 5, 2014

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - As hard as Republicans are working to win control of the U.S. Senate, Kansas can’t be the place that fails the party, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee said Friday.

U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas told business leaders in Wichita that the state will be making a “terrible mistake” if it fails to keep Pat Roberts in the Senate.

“If we don’t do what we need to do in Kansas, that is just stupid,” Moran told the Kansas Chamber of Commerce during a political forum.

Roberts has shaken up his struggling re-election team as he gets help from national operatives in a race that’s suddenly a battleground in the fight for Senate control. The campaign overhaul comes after Roberts’ bruising primary fight and the attempt by his Democratic challenger this week to cancel his candidacy in the face of a strong bid by an independent candidate.

The 78-year-old Roberts won only 48 percent of the vote in the August primary against a tea party opponent. The race also was roiled by Democrat Chad Taylor’s attempt to withdraw, a move that appeared to be aimed at giving independent Greg Orman a better shot at defeating Roberts. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a Republican who is locked in his own close re-election battle, ruled Thursday that Taylor would have to remain on the ballot over a dispute about the wording of the withdrawal.

“I’d love to find out what backdoor, secret deal went on. What is he giving; what is he getting out,” Roberts told reporters before the forum. “Bring it on. Bring it on, Chad.”

Roberts is not the only Republican facing unexpectedly tough re-election races in what has been traditionally a reliable red state. Republican Gov. Sam Brownback also is locked in a tight race with Democratic challenger Paul Davis after massive tax cuts led to two credit downgrades and cuts to education and other services.

Dakota Loomis, spokesman for the Kansas Democratic Party, said Kansas residents are tired of Roberts, Brownback and Kobach putting their partisan politics ahead of what is best for Kansas.

“Kansans clearly want new leadership across the state - they want new leadership in Topeka and they want new leadership in Washington, D.C.,” Loomis said.

The upended Senate race in Kansas has captured national attention as the GOP tries to take majority control of the Senate.

“Can you imagine the circumstance in which we do all this work and Kansas is the place that fails us?” Moran said. “It can’t happen. What if we go through all this and Gov. Brownback is not the governor? Do you think there is a consequence to all the effort that goes into trying to change the U.S. Senate, U.S. Congress and here in Kansas we decide we are going in the other direction? This makes absolutely no sense.”

Loomis agreed as far as the Kansas going in a different direction, but for an entirely different reason: “At this point Kansas is falling behind the nation, Kansas is falling behind its neighbors - and that is a direct reflection of Sam Brownback’s failed policies, Pat Robert’s failed policies and Jerry Moran’s failed policies.”

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