Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts is struggling to win re-election, and the wide open spaces of his childhood are both his best chance for saving his political career and the biggest threat to it.
The 78-year-old Republican must wring every friendly vote out of Kansas’ 99 rural counties to turn back the challenge from a suburban businessman running as an independent. Greg Orman is capitalizing on sentiment that the incumbent is out of touch.
But the available votes here are declining along with the population. Rural counties now account for less than 45 percent of the electorate. Some of Roberts’ past supporters are skeptical of him since he has been in Washington for four decades.
Roberts has ramped up his rural campaign but also has to compete in the booming suburbs.