Sen. Pat Roberts' re-election reportedly could be in grave danger if tea party supporters decide Wednesday to sit out the key race.
The campaign of Roberts, a Kansas Republican, has been working to regain the support of conservatives after a bruising primary battle against tea party-backed radiologist Milton Wolf.
"It all comes back to whether or not there's an agreement reached. I don't know if there's going to be," tea party activist and Gardner, Kansas, City Councilman Steve Shute told The Hill.
"The longer this delays, to find results, the greater risk there is that Kansas turns blue or purple."
The Hill reports that Shute has been acting as a moderator between conservatives and the campaigns of Roberts and another vulnerable GOP incumbent, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback.
The Hill cites unnamed sources as saying conservative leaders will decide Wednesday if they'll back Roberts or sit out his re-election bid against independent Greg Orman
, who's been polling slightly ahead of Roberts.
Roberts has made some inroads in gathering support from out-of-state conservative heavyweights: former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin campaigned for him last week, The Hill notes; conservative Ben Carson
backed him Tuesday.
The Hill reports Roberts is bringing Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in to stump for him next month.
State tea party activists are another matter.
On Friday, representatives of Brownback's and Roberts' campaigns, state party executive director Clay Barker, conservative activists, and tea party leaders met and were on conference calls, The Hill reports. The gathering was organized by the state party chairman at the request of Shute.
"We talked through a lot of issues, a lot of items, and it was for the most part civil, cordial and, I think, constructive," Shute told The Hill.
At the heart of lingering tea party anger over the primary fight is the suspicion that Wolf's controversial postings of patient X-Rays and off-color commentary on his Facebook
– which triggered a medical ethics probe and damaged his campaign – were leaked to the media, The Hill notes.
Conservatives say both the leaks and the investigation were politically motivated.
"They've just done some nasty, ugly, backhanded stuff here, and things they shouldn't be doing, and it's a frightful despotism," conservative activist Rob Wood told The Hill.
The Hill reports conservatives now demand, among other things, that Brownback intervene to dismiss the ethics investigation of Wolf, and that a member of the state organization that launched the investigation — and who conservatives think leaked the news of it to the press — be removed.
"We're giving [the Roberts campaign] every opportunity to win this race if they want it, but they're running out of time," Wood told The Hill. "If they get it done by the end of this week, we could hit the ground and get it done."
Corry Bliss, Roberts' campaign manager, told The Hill: "Like any campaign, we have been actively reaching out to grassroots leaders across the state."
"We are all united on the most important issue of this election, making sure Republicans gain control of the Senate — and that can't happen without reelecting Pat Roberts," he said.
Not everyone is on board.
"Here in the state of Kansas we are still mightily peeved at Pat Roberts, his staff and everybody on the campaign," tea party supporter Chuck Henderson told The Hill.
"Now people are beginning to get phone calls from staffers begging us to come in and help him out, and after all of the meanness and nastiness, for Sarah to show up and just declare the tea party is supporting him?"
If Kansas isn't a key to Senate control, Henderson added, "our consideration is . . . to let him swing in the wind."
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