In an interview, the three-term senator acknowledged that he did not have a home of his own in Kansas. The house on a country club golf course that he lists as his voting address belongs to two longtime supporters and donors -- C. Duane and Phyllis Ross -- and he says he stays with them when he is in the area. He established his voting address there the day before his challenger, Milton Wolf, announced his candidacy last fall, arguing that Mr. Roberts was out of touch with his High Plains roots.
"We're not going to get Lugar'd," Roberts adviser David Kensinger told the Times, in a reference to long-time Indiana Senator Richard Lugar who lost a 2012 primary to a Tea Party challenger, who in turn lost to a Democrat Joe Donnelly in the general election.
"I have full access to the recliner," the senator joked. Turning serious, he added, "Nobody knows the state better than I do."
Roberts fits the Lugar profile, so Kensinger concern was understandable. Roberts is getting up in years; he's 77. And he's been a Congressman and Senator since 1980 and before that, starting in 1967, a D.C. staffer for Kansas Senator Frank Carlson and Congressman Keith Sebelius.
Roberts made some astute moves to avoid Lugar's fate. He lined up almost every conceivable challenger, virtually every state Senator and Representatives for an endorsement. He shifted his voting record from conservative to very, very conservative.
Despite this, Roberts got a primary challenger: Milton Wolf, a distant cousin of President Obama and radiologist. Wolf is being backed by many of the same Tea Party organizations and media that backed Dave Brat's upset of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Mississippi Senate challenger Chris McDaniel. In fact, Wolf has gone on national right-wing shows like that of Mark Levin to back McDaniel and attack not only Roberts, but the state's other Senator Jerry Moran, chair of the National Republican Senatorial Campaign.
There have been signs that Roberts is vulnerable. A 2013 poll, for example, found that just 42% of Republicans say they would vote to re-nominate Roberts, while 34% say they would prefer someone "more conservative." And, a February 2014 PPP poll show that Kansans disapproving of Roberts by a 38 to 29 margin.
But Wolf hasn't caught on. The February PPP poll found Roberts leading Milton Wolf 49 percent to 23 percent among GOP primary voters. A June Survey USA poll showed Roberts ahead of Wolf, 56-23 percent.
Personally, I hope that Roberts and Wolf have a full out slugfest in the nice month and that votes come to see the former as an out-of-touch, D.C. insider, carpetbagger and the latter as an unethical, right wing nut job.
Then, perhaps Kansas can elect its first non-Republican Senator since George McGill was re-elected in 1932. The Democrats have a potentially strong candidate in Chad Taylor.