Roberts: ‘I Respect The Tea Party’

By John Celock

U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) is doubling down on his conservative bonafides as new polls show him with a slim lead in a competitive race that could determine control of the U.S. Senate.

Roberts used an interview aired Thursday morning on the “Joseph Ashby Show” on KQAM radio in Wichita to announce that the Tea Party Express is endorsing him in his reelection battle against independent Greg Orman. His stressing of his Tea Party connections is an attempt to heal wounds following a bitter primary against Tea Party favorite Milton Wolf. Roberts is kicking off a bus tour with U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a Tea Party favorite, Thursday afternoon. The interview with Ashby was taped Wednesday and aired on Thursday morning’s show.

“Contempt is not the word to use about the Tea Party,” Roberts told Ashby. “I respect the Tea Party. I applaud the Tea Party.”

Roberts had used a Wednesday debate against Orman in Overland Park to stress what he said is Orman’s ties to President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (R-Nev.), points he followed up on during the Ashby interview. He has made what he said are Orman’s Democratic ties the centerpiece to his general election campaign, which became one of the most competitive in the nation following the withdrawal of Democrat Chad Taylor last month.

Roberts repeated many of the same points from the debate to Ashby, including noting past Orman donations to Obama, Reid and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Orman has responded during the debate to stress that he has donated to Republicans as well, including former U.S. Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) Orman has said that he donated to Brown in an attempt to block Obamacare.

Among the points Roberts repeated to Ashby was that he finds that Orman is not being direct in his views. He jumped on Orman saying during Wednesday’s debate that he would not vote for either Reid or Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for majority leader if elected.

“It is like trying to nail Jell-O against the wall,” Roberts said of Orman’s views.

Roberts tried to heal wounds with Tea Party members during his appearance on the show. Ashby is a favorite of Tea Party activists and the host will emcee Roberts’ rally with Cruz on Thursday.

During the primary, Wolf hammered Roberts over questions on the senator’s residency, following a February New York Times report that Roberts rarely spent time at his Dodge City home. Roberts’ campaign hammered Wolf over reports that he had posted graphic x-rays of gunshot victims on Facebook. Roberts did acknowledge though that his campaign made “tactical mistakes” in the primary against Wolf.

“I think it was a hard fought primary. I don’t have any personal animus with regards to Dr. Wolf. I have been through a lot of races and have been called a lot of things through the years,” Roberts told Ashby. “When you get in this business of public service and you put your name up for the electorate to make a decision. I do regret that is the case. I wish had a better campaign focusing on the need for stronger conservative voices in the Congress.”

Roberts pledged to Ashby to pursue a conservative agenda if reelected, noting that he would vote against non-conservative judges and not allow another Supreme Court justice in the mold of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. He also said that if he becomes chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee he’ll “shake that agency form one side to the other.”

Roberts kept returning to his support of the Tea Party.

“I am a Marine, I am the senior Marine in the Congress,” Roberts said. “As a Marine we take the hill and at the top of the hill we plant the conservative flag and next to that we plant the Tea Party flag.”

In an attempt to defuse lingering questions over the residency questions, Roberts talked about his travels around the state, referencing former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole’s (R-Kan.) current trip to visit all 105 counties in Kansas.

“I’ve been in more communities in Kansas than any other politician,” Roberts said. “More than Bob Dole. Bob Dole is trying to catch up.”