Listen to U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., debate or watch his ads on television and you'd swear he was locked in a race with either President Barack Obama or Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Maybe in Roberts' mind, he is. And, having lost the vote of Kansas tea party supporters during the primary election when he barely defeated novice Milton Wolf, the notion certainly has been solidified by the parade of national tea party figures showing up to support the lifelong politician in the general election. Former Govs. Sarah Palin and Jeb Bush, Rep. Paul Ryan, and Sens. Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Tom Coburn all have stumped for Roberts, a Washington insider since 1967, in his fight for a fourth Senate term.
The fight is real. Independent Greg Orman is threatening to become the first non-Republican senator from Kansas in almost a century -- and the only substantive Kansas issue Roberts has to discuss is his sham residence in Dodge City.
A freudian slip earlier this year sums up how much the incumbent senator cares about Kansas: "Every time I get an opponent -- I mean, every time I get a chance, I'm home," Roberts offered in an interview.
A worse indictment comes from national GOP strategist John Weaver, a former adviser to Sen. John McCain.
"He's basically furniture in the Senate, and the people in Kansas know that," Weaver told the Washington Post in an interview last month. "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."
Which is precisely the reason Roberts is promising to toe the GOP line and invoking Obama's name in a desperate campaign.
Kansans deserve better. The stalemate gripping the nation's capital is self-imposed and caused by politicians who want jobs, cater to special interests, and refuse to solve problems that affect most of the country's citizens.
Greg Orman recognizes the broken system -- and has shed party affiliation to fight it. Once a Republican and once a Democrat, the independent candidate will commit to neither party's caucus.
In a televised debate last week, Orman responded to Roberts' claim that Obama and Reid are to blame for the lack of meaningful legislation: "You know, he's half right. The other half of the mess is (Minority Leader) Mitch McConnell and Pat Roberts."
During an interview with The Hays Daily News, also last week, Orman said he "will seek common sense solutions while maintaining my independence from either the Republicans or Democrats."
Solutions are needed, desperately. And Orman can deliver a business perspective that would work.
He does not believe the Affordable Care Act has reduced structural costs for employers. Driving down healthcare costs and changing incentives by focusing on outcomes will allow companies to increase payrolls. Orman believes the elimination of loopholes, deductions and credits will simplify the U.S. tax code and lower corporate tax rates without decreasing critical revenues.
He also understands the problem of illegal immigration cannot be resolved by deporting all of them. According to Orman's website: "We've got whole industries in Kansas that would go away if we attempted to introduce such an unworkable policy. Towns like Dodge City and Garden City and much of the agricultural community in Kansas would be absolutely devastated."
Simply put, if the demand for such workers exists, the supply will manifest itself regardless how high a fence is built along the border. That's a position neither dominant party is espousing.
One more position resonating with us is Orman's stance that corporations should not be treated as persons.
As Democrat Chad Taylor dropped out of the campaign and Libertarian Randall Batson simply hasn't developed any traction, this is a two-person race. Actually, only one candidate has aspirations to tackle the tough issues of the day -- and it's not incumbent Republican Pat Roberts.
We endorse Independent Greg Orman in the Nov. 4 general election to represent Kansas in the U.S. Senate. His energy, intelligence, common sense and lack of partisan obligation is precisely what we need.
Editorial by Patrick Lowry