Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts has first Web ad; opponent Greg Orman calls it ‘fake’

Sen. Pat Roberts visits with independent challenger Greg Orman after their debate at the Kansas State Fair in Hutchinson on Sept. 6.
Sen. Pat Roberts visits with independent challenger Greg Orman after their debate at the Kansas State Fair in Hutchinson on Sept. 6. The Wichita Eagle

Republican Sen. Pat Roberts posted an online ad Friday attacking independent candidate Greg Orman as a liberal pretending to be a Kansas conservative and immediately faced demands from the challenger to remove the spot over “manipulated” audio from a recent debate.

The 64-second ad is the three-term Republican incumbent’s first online spot of the fall campaign and part of his newly aggressive effort to paint Orman, who’s running as a centrist, as a liberal.

GOP-leaning Kansas is an unexpected battleground in the fight for control of the Senate because Roberts looked vulnerable after a tough primary, and the Democratic nominee stopped campaigning, boosting Orman’s chances.

The ad labels Orman a “phony politician” and notes his past political contributions to prominent Democrats, including President Obama and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The ad suggests Orman pretended to be a conservative in last week’s debate at the Kansas State Fair by agreeing with Roberts on issues multiple times.

The ad includes a montage of video clips from the debate that show Orman saying, “I agree,” or, “I don’t disagree,” five times in eight seconds. The final audio cut in the brief montage has Orman saying, “Just so we’re clear, I agree with the senator.”

The last cut combined audio from different points in the debate and was not a direct quote.

Near the end of the debate, Orman said: “By the way, just so we’re clear, I agree that both chambers of commerce are – or, Congress – are run in an overly partisan way. I agree that Harry Reid is stopping progress on a lot of things, but so are the Republicans in the House.”

Orman’s campaign called the audio “fake.”

“They changed it to fit what they wanted. It’s not what Greg said,” Orman spokesman Sam Edelman said in an e-mail. “They manipulated the audio and claim it’s what came out of Greg’s mouth when it isn’t.”

But Roberts campaign manager Corry Bliss said the ad contains an accurate representation of what Orman said throughout the debate because Orman repeatedly said he agreed with Roberts.

“Greg Orman calling anything, let alone this ad, ‘deceptive’ is laughable,” Bliss said in an e-mail. “Greg Orman doesn’t want voters to know that he’s a liberal Democrat.”

While Orman has contributed to Democrats, he’s also donated to Republicans, including GOP moderate Scott Brown’s successful U.S. Senate campaign in 2010. He has said repeatedly that he’ll caucus with whatever party has the majority.

Republicans need six seats to recapture the majority, and they’ve counted on Roberts winning re-election in a state in which the GOP has won every Senate race since 1932.

Orman ran for the same seat briefly in 2007 and 2008 – which the Roberts ad notes – but dropped out. He’s said he became disappointed with both parties.