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“Feed The Base’s Worst Fears”: When In Doubt, Run Against The Kenyan Muslim Socialist

Yesterday, Senator Pat Roberts — who has emerged as one of the most closely watched incumbents in the country, now that independent Greg Orman’s challenge to him could dictate who controls the Senate — raised a lot of eyebrows when he said this:

“We have to change course because our country is heading for national socialism. That’s not right. It’s changing our culture. It’s changing what we’re all about.”

National socialism? Philip Rucker, in a great piece on the Kansas race, asks Senator Roberts what he meant, and gets this:

When a reporter asked whether he truly thinks the president is a socialist, Roberts replied, “I believe that the direction he is heading the country is more like a European socialistic state, yes. You can’t tell me anything that he has not tried to nationalize.”

Interestingly, the Orman campaign is criticizing Roberts’ rhetoric. In a statement, the campaign said:

“This is exactly the kind of inflammatory rhetoric that dominates the partisan debate in Washington and that Kansans are tired of. Washington is broken because politicians like Senator Roberts are too busy using scare tactics and calling each other names instead of getting things done. Kansans know we’ve got to do things differently, and that’s why they’re supporting businessman Greg Orman’s independent campaign for Senate.”

This is noteworthy, given that you’d think calling Obama a socialist could not possibly be problematic in any way in deep red Kansas.

By the way, the claim that Obama is moving the country towards socialism has long been echoed by many leading Republicans. It’s a way to feed the base’s worst fears about Obama while not quite coming out and calling him a socialist, which sounds crazy. In accusing Obama of wanting to “nationalize,” well, the entire private sector, Senator Roberts has dispensed with such restraint.

This gets to something interesting about this race. Roberts and his allies in the national GOP, panicked about the Orman challenge and its implications for Senate control, are quickly gearing up an All-About-Obummer campaign. Roberts is up with an ad ripping Orman for donating to Obama and national Democrats, and for saying repeal of Obamacare is unrealistic. A GOP Super PAC is airing a similarly themed spot. (Republicans are also tarring Orman as a shady businessman, but tying him to Obama and national Democrats will figure heavily.)

But, judging by the Orman statement above, his camp is gambling that this approach won’t work and could even end up reinforcing the frame for the race they prefer. The premise of the Orman campaign is that voters are sick of both parties and of Washington, allowing them to cast any efforts to tie him to Obama and national Democrats as more of the same old partisan food fighting, all designed to distract from Roberts’ failure to produce concrete achievements despite all his time in the Capitol.

The backdrop for all of this is the abject failure of the experiment in conservative governance undertaken by Kansas governor Sam Brownback, which has alienated many moderate Republicans. But it seems unlikely that Orman will directly engage on that front. I’d expect him to seek to capitalize on the generalized unpopularity of the GOP that has resulted, to campaign against both parties — and against Roberts’ lack of accomplishments — in making the case for trying something new in the form of an independent businessman.

Even Republicans are worried about this prospect, as one Republican rather colorfully put it to Rucker:

“He’s basically furniture in the Senate, and the people in Kansas know that,” said national GOP strategist John Weaver, a former McCain adviser. “You could give the average Kansan 24 hours to come up with something Pat Roberts has done in the Senate, and after 24 hours, even the crickets would be standing there befuddled.”

Well, okay, that does sound pretty problematic, but there’s still a way out: Run against the Kenyan Muslim Socialist!

 

By: Greg Sargent, The Plum Line, The Washington Post, September 24, 2014

September 25, 2014 - Posted by | GOP, Kansas, Pat Roberts | , , , , ,

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