It has occasionally been claimed that the Civil War began not at Fort Sumter in South Carolina but on the banks of a small creek in Kansas, where John Brown and his sons murdered five men in what later became known as the “Pottawatomie massacre.” Today, a less grisly civil war is being fought throughout that state between disgruntled supporters of Tea Party candidate Milton Wolf and “establishment” Republicans working to reelect Senator Pat Roberts, who defeated Wolf in a hard-fought GOP primary. This internecine conflict may well prevent the Republicans from regaining a majority in the U.S. Senate.
Although Roberts has a 96 percent rating from the American Conservative Union, many of Wolf’s supporters inexplicably claim he’s a RINO and threaten to sit out the election. This wouldn’t be particularly important if Roberts enjoyed a substantial lead over his main rival. However, due to some clever courthouse skullduggery whereby the Democrats forced their original Senate nominee to drop out of the race and threw their support behind ostensible “Independent” Greg Orman, Roberts is in the fight of his political life. Thus, he needs the support of Tea Partiers as well as party regulars.
Wolf, however, refuses to endorse Roberts or encourage his supporters to vote for him. During the primary, he ran as a serious conservative determined to repeal Obamacare and work to reverse the other disastrous policies perpetrated by the Democrats. And Wolf made a good showing for a rookie in big league politics. In the end, though, he lost. Now, he apparently intends to punish Kansas and the country for his defeat. Implicit in the GOP plan to pick up six Senate seats and thus gain a majority is that certain incumbents, including Roberts, are “safe.” Wolf’s failure to be a team player puts that plan in peril.
This has not been lost on conservatives whom Wolf professes to admire. Tea Party icon Ted Cruz, for example, has visited Kansas to stump for Roberts, who also enjoys the support of Sarah Palin and other high-profile conservatives such as retiring Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn. These people know what’s at stake here. As Jerry Moran, the state’s other Republican Senator, put it: “Boy, what a shame it would be to wake up the day after the election to learn that we had six Republican senators elected in difficult states… and discover that Kansas had failed… to return Sen. Pat Roberts to the United States Senate.”
Yet Dr. Wolf remains silent. And the implications of this failure to demonstrate solidarity with people whose conservative credentials are beyond question have also been noted by important Kansas media outlets. In an op-ed titled, “Milton Wolf should bring his tea party followers into Pat Roberts’ camp,” columnist Steve Rose wrote in the Kansas City Star, “I think it is safe to assume the tea party challenger has decided, at least for now, not to endorse the victor. This is too bad because Wolf… could really put a spark in the Roberts campaign. Roberts badly needs it, and that could have national ramifications.”
Rose is right about the ominous ramifications of a Roberts loss, but he is something of an outlier at the Star. That paper is noted for its liberal tilt. And it just endorsed Greg Orman: “Thoughtful and well-versed on crucial issues, Orman is a successful Olathe businessman who has the needed background to work with other senators to handle the huge budgetary problems roiling Congress right now.” Thoughtful and well-versed? Apparently, the people who composed this editorial missed the recent debate in which Orman made it clear that he doesn’t possess even a rudimentary understanding of how the Senate works.
And Greg Orman is no Independent. His own contributions to political candidates have overwhelmingly gone to Democrats, including Harry Reid. He affects an aversion to big money in politics. However, in a story titled, “Billionaires for Greg Orman,” Politico reports that a variety of deep-pocket political donors are gearing up to abet Orman’s campaign, including “a Jonathan Soros-backed group.” And he is deliberately vague on major issues. He claims to dislike Obamacare, for example, but is also against repealing it. As John McCain succinctly described Orman, “If he’s an Independent, then I’m an astronaut.”
And this character may well win if Milton Wolf doesn’t endorse Roberts. The tragic irony is that a failure to endorse Roberts will probably destroy whatever political future Wolf may have otherwise enjoyed. This is true whether the incumbent Senator wins or loses. In the former case, Wolf will be forever written off as a clumsy amateur and sore loser who cannot be trusted to put the interests of Kansas and the nation above his own ego. And, if Greg Orman wins and caucuses with the Democrats, Wolf will become a veritable pariah. He will be remembered as the prima donna who helped save the U.S. Senate for Harry Reid.
But it doesn’t have to be so. Wolf has many loyal supporters, which puts him in a unique position. All he has to do is get in front of the cameras and say something along the lines of the following: “I have misgivings about Pat Roberts. But, if sending him back to Washington will help the GOP take the Senate majority away from Harry Reid, I’m going to vote for the Senator — despite our differences. I’d rather have a Republican majority that disappoints and irritates me than a Democrat majority determined to destroy our country. So, I’m voting for Roberts, and I hope all my supporters will do the same.”
If Roberts still manages to lose after such an endorsement, no one can lay the blame at Wolf’s door. He can honestly say he tried to do the right thing. And if Roberts wins, Wolf will get much of the credit and — more importantly — he will have done his country a signal service by helping to put honest men and women back in control of the Senate.