We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto ...
Oh wow. Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts, who faces a spirited challenge in the Republican primary, has a Dick Lugar problem—a serious, serious Dick Lugar problem
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.
"I have full access to the recliner," the senator joked. Turning serious, he added, "Nobody knows the state better than I do."
Man oh man. If you followed the Indiana Senate race last cycle, you'll remember how badly Lugar got beat up over his frayed ties to his home state. Lugar's critics focused on the fact that he was still registered to vote at a home he'd sold—in 1977! As a result, they succeeded in getting him dumped from the voter rolls until he re-registered at a "rustic" farm
Lugar admitted he didn't actually live in.
It didn't help matters much, though, because Lugar faced continued scrutiny over just how much time he spent back in the Hoosier State. He finally confessed to setting foot in Indiana on just 1,800 days over a period of 36 years—barely 14 percent of his congressional tenure. In the end, the tea party-backed Richard Mourdock whacked Lugar by more than 20 points in the GOP primary.
The parallels with Roberts' situation are many. Like Lugar, Roberts has long since "gone Washington." As the New York Times' Jonathan Martin notes, he's a "fixture" of the D.C. Sunday talk shows, and his wife is a real-estate broker who boasts of her "extensive knowledge" of their home town of Alexandria, Virginia. It's "hard to find anyone who has seen" the senator, writes Martin, around the Kansas home he's pretending to rent.
Indeed, that aspect of the situation is the most egregious and makes Roberts sound outright delusional:
He began paying the Rosses $300 a month to allow him to stay overnight with them occasionally. "We're not going to get Lugar'd," said David Kensinger, an adviser to Mr. Roberts.
So $300 a month for "full access to the recliner" on the rare occasions when Roberts bothers to visit the Sunflower State is supposed to inoculate the incumbent from "getting Lugar'd"? Good luck with that! At least Lugar owned the farm he listed as his bogus residence. Pat Roberts just has a time-share in a La-Z-Boy.
Roberts' primary opponent, Wolf, still has a long way to go. He doesn't have much money in the bank, and polls have shown him trailing far behind. And unlike Mourdock, who was state treasurer, he doesn't have prior elective experience. But narratives like this can be exceptionally toxic, which is why Roberts has feebly tried to get ahead of this one. And while he may have galloped to the right in an attempt to outflank Wolf ideologically, it's a lot harder to wash off that Beltway stank. The smell alone just might sink him ... right back into that comfy recliner.