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Pat Roberts Faces Tough U.S. Senate Race After Field Narrows

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A Wednesday shake-up in Kansas politics even has seasoned pundits amazed. 

Chad Taylor, a Democrat running for U.S. Senate, has withdrawn from the race, leaving Kansas Republican Pat Roberts facing his toughest political test in decades.

Steve Kraske, host of Up To Date on KCUR and Kansas City Star political commentator, says the change spells bad news for the incumbent.

"Pat Roberts is suddenly in very deep trouble in Kansas," Kraske says. "His polling numbers have not been good. He was ahead only because he was in a three-way contest."

Wednesday was a great day for Greg Orman, the independent candidate for Senate in Kansas.  First, Orman picked up endorsements from dozens of moderate Kansas Republicans, including current office holders.  Then, the Democrat in the race, Chad Taylor, suddenly dropped out. 

Orman and Taylor had been splitting the anti-Roberts vote.  Roberts has served in Congress for 43 years. His Republican primary opponent dinged him for not maintaining a permanent residence in Kansas. 

Orman’s a business man, wealthy enough to finance his own campaign if necessary, and he was 10 points up on Roberts in a poll last month.  But, beyond that, we don't know a whole lot about the guy, according to Burdett Loomis, a political science professor at Kansas University.

"I think over the next few weeks, Orman’s going to have to define himself more effectively", says Loomis.  "Give people a reason to vote for him."

The race could be crucial to control of the U.S. Senate.   Loomis says that the Senate race going competitive, coupled with the fact that Kansas Governor Sam Brownback faces a real challenge from Democrat Paul Davis, sets up a bizarre election year.

"It’s Kansas!  The reddest of States," exclaims Loomis.  "And here are two possibilities for Republican incumbents to lose.  In a year that's not bad for Republicans."

But, Loomis says that Orman in particular faces an uphill fight.   If he beats Roberts, he’d be the first Kansas Senate candidate to defeat a Republican in more than 80 years.

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