Independent senate candidate Greg Orman, left, talks with a supporter before a campaign event in…
Did Greg Orman, the wealthy businessman running as an independent in the Kansas Senate race, really call Bob Dole, the 91 year-old Kansas Republican political legend, a “clown”? Orman’s remarks, just days before the midterm election, have set off a new round of sparring in his contentious race against incumbent Republican Sen. Pat Roberts.
It happened Friday, as Dole, along with fellow GOP luminaries Chris Christie and Haley Barbour, appeared at a Roberts campaign event. In recent days, other Republican bigwigs, including Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, Mike Pence, and Ted Cruz, have campaigned on Roberts’ behalf. So Orman was asked: What about the continuing series of national Republicans who have come to Kansas to campaign for the incumbent?
“It sort of seems like a Washington establishment clown car to me,” Orman answered, according to a transcript provided by his campaign. “You know, every day a new person comes out of that car. You know, ultimately we have gone out and we have brought our case to the voters of Kansas, and everywhere I go, I hear the same things. Kansans think Washington is broken.”
Not long after, Elahe Izadi, a Washington Post reporter covering Orman, tweeted: “Greg Orman referred to Clean Sweep GOP bus tour as a ‘Washington establishment clown car.'”
In the heat of a campaign, a Democrat, or even a self-styled independent like Orman, could probably get away with referring to Christie, et al, as occupants of a clown car. But Bob Dole? In Kansas? The Roberts campaign was quick to jump on Orman’s ill-chosen words. “If he wants to attack me, that’s fine because I’m used to being attacked by liberals,” Roberts said in a statement. “But Mr. Orman owes Sen. Dole an apology.”
Roberts campaign manager Corry Bliss called Orman’s words a “slimy attack” which revealed the independent candidate’s “true colors.” And then Dole himself reacted with a simple statement that bordered on bewilderment. “I don’t think I’ve ever been called a ‘clown’ before,” the World War II hero turned lawmaker and presidential candidate said. “I’m disappointed by Mr. Orman’s statement.”
Asked for reaction, the Orman campaign said Orman has said many favorable things about Dole and would never refer to the former Kansas senator as a clown. “Greg Orman has the utmost respect for Sen. Dole, and he obviously did not call him, or any other person, a ‘clown,'” said Orman campaign manager Jim Jonas in a statement. ”