Being seen is, in politics, really important. At least, if you want to seem like you’re not out of touch. Because if it looks to people like you are out it, you will be very soon out of office. And you may just have to remind the people every now and again that you do not, in fact, have horns.
As the Republicans try to regain the senate here in the midterm elections, (they already hold the House of Representatives) they know that not only must they pick up at least six seats, they must also hold the ones they already have, which, in Kansas, a traditionally deeply Red State, may be a problem.
Besides the facts that he has served for seventeen years, he is now nearly eighty himself, there are other reasons why some young Kansans, (and even older ones) may feel that Orman, the Independent, who is Robert’s only competition in the race since the Democrats pulled their candidate due to lack of interest, is a better fit. The reason is that Robert’s doesn’t own a house in Kansas. He doesn’t even always go back there on his vacations.
He was once voted the funniest senator. But then, he stopped visiting his state. People said his rallies were more like wakes for the dead. He seemed, according to some, to really have no clue that all of a sudden, he was dropping in the polls, and dropping fast. And he wasn’t there, and he wasn’t visible.
Greg Orman was though. The man who will now say with which party he will caucus with in Washington if he wins. He began chasing Robert’s up in the polls, as “everything came up Orman.”
But the other part of the story of the importance of being visible is that now, that’s what Roberts is. He is back in Kansas, at last, with a new team, a new message, and new money. Quite a bit of it, in fact. The Republican National Committee is not risking losing this seat, and even Sara Palin showed up to show support.
It has helped. A lot. The race is competitive again. But the story is one of a man who was out of sight, and quickly went on the road to being out of it. He is in sight now, and once again in sight of reelection. He was once ten points ahead in the polls. Then he was below Orman. Now he is once again even. But that was a turnaround that never needed to be necessary.
It may very well be Pat Robert’s last election night, on November 4, whether he wins of not. He is getting old, and another six years in Washington may very well finish to the old senator’s long race. Until then he has to finish out one more campaign, while writing the textbook on what not to do.
Andrew C. Abbott