Embattled Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts’ ground game is getting a big boost from pro-life Kansans.
The Susan B. Anthony List, the largest pro-life PAC in the country, is knocking on thousands of doors to defeat "independent" Senate nominee Greg Orman. The multi-millionaire businessman is running as a moderate, but his candidacy has attracted support from some of the nation’s most radical abortion groups in the country.
Laurie Lee, executive director of SBA List’s Women Speak Out PAC in Kansas and Arkansas, said that her 160 volunteers are going to make sure Kansas voters know what to expect from Orman, who is expected to caucus with Democrats in the Senate.
"Kansans are not buying Orman’s stance that he’s independent. His stance on the life issue is clear and it’s our job to ensure that Kansans who think this is a matter of grave importance are informed," she said. "He’s afraid of this issue because he knows it’s a pro-life state. Voters need to know who you are as a candidate because this is a litmus test for many people in the state."
Orman surged to commanding poll leads over Roberts, a four-term incumbent, when Democrat Chad Taylor dropped out of the race in September. He has seen support dwindle in October after reporters and voters began scrutinizing his record. Social issues have become a major focus in the race after Orman refused to take a stand on abortion in debate. Roberts called Orman’s position "unconscionable."
Video later emerged of Orman literally running away from a woman who asked him about the issue.
The Orman campaign did not return request for comment.
Orman has given Roberts and conservatives an opening to define the independent as a far left radical, according to Lee. She pointed to the fact that Orman will not repeal Obamacare, which allows taxpayer funds to pay for abortion through state Medicaid expansion and the use of subsidies to pay for abortion coverage.
She also said that Obama and Democrats oppose even "modest proposals like the ban on abortion after five months," despite the fact that a majority of voters oppose late term abortion. Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, who is in the middle of a close re-election campaign of his own, signed such a bill in 2013.
"Obama has said his policies are on the ballot. Orman’s vote will be with the Democrats who are unapologetically pro-abortion," Lee said. "He’s trying to paint himself as a moderate independent, but on this issue he is a very liberal voter."
Roberts has overcome his double digit deficit in the polls and pulled into a virtual tie with Orman in October. This is thanks in part to the influx of national Republican groups spending millions on ad money and grassroots organizing. Pro-lifers are on the ground because they want to send a message to the establishment GOP that social issues like abortion can make a difference in tight elections.
"We’re not going to sit still and forgo this issue as Greg Orman wants us to. They’re trying to distort and distract from issues that people care about and it’s coming back to bite them," Lee said. "The life issue is made up of people with very strong values and they’re passionate about the hundreds of thousands of babies who are killed every year by abortion"
Lee has worked in Arkansas politics for two decades after serving eight years in the Navy, where she was one of only a few females certified to serve as EOD divers. Arguing pro-life positions among reluctant politicians, she said, can be more trying than defusing bombs.
"Dealing with pols is a lot more volatile than dealing with explosives," she said. She joined the pro-life movement after doctors repeatedly urged her to abort her first daughter because of potential birth defects. Her daughter was born healthy and is now 22 years old.
Lee has heard similar stories from thousands of other mothers over the years, which is part of what makes the Women Speak Out PAC one of the most successful ground operations in politics in 2014. Lee’s focus had been on the Arkansas Senate race between Rep. Tom Cotton and Sen. Mark Pryor. The PAC has about 200 volunteers in the state who have reached out to 170,000 voters, including visits to more than 115,000 households since July. On Saturday alone, the group hit 3,600 pro-life homes. Pryor has addressed his sagging poll numbers by moving to the right and campaigning as a "personally pro-life" politician.
"That’s a mistake when you have a voting record that is so pro-abortion," Lee said. "People don’t like wolves in sheep’s clothing who tell you one thing back home but then go to Washington and vote another way."
Lee’s campaign operations have relied heavily on a similar playbook in Kansas—a race that was widely seen as a sure GOP seat in the summer. Lee arrived in Kansas on October 14 and quickly amassed 160 volunteers. They have already reached out to 40,000 voters, including about 10,000 personal visits to pro-life voters. They plan to knock on more than 2,000 doors per day in the last week, aiming to turn out 25,000 voters. The effort could be crucial in an election that will be determined by just a few thousand votes.
One Kansas political operative said that the pro-life ground game and Orman’s fumble on abortion could play a decisive role in the election that could determine the Senate majority in 2014.
"Orman offers consistently empty rhetoric on issues Kansans care about. It's not that you can't be pro-choice in Kansas. It's that you have to be up front and very clear about it. Orman will only step forward as pro-choice when pushed, but he's actually worse: He thinks that the ‘law is settled’ and that there should no longer be a national discussion," the operative said. "He's not just pro-choice, but anti-reform. He thinks there is no area in which we can ensure that life is protected. As more Kansans realize this, it hurts his credibility as the ‘straight shooter’ and makes him look more like the indecisive do-anything-to-get-elected political opportunist."