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Chamber ad seeks to tie independent to Obama

By Dana Bash, CNN Chief Congressional Correspondent
updated 4:01 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
  • Republican Sen. Pat Roberts is in a tough reelection fight with an independent candidate.
  • The Democrat dropped out of the race because the independent had a better shot at winning.
  • Republican leaning groups have rallied around Roberts in an attempt to keep the seat.

(CNN) -- The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is coming to the rescue of Republican Senator Pat Roberts, airing its first television ad in Kansas starting Wednesday morning, CNN has learned.

The Chamber of Commerce has been playing a big role this election year by spending millions on ads to prop up incumbents in GOP primaries, and now in the general election, to help defeat Democratic incumbents.

Spending money in the ruby red state of Kansas to defend Roberts was hardly the original plan for the Chamber of Commerce. But after the Democratic Senate candidate Chad Taylor dropped out, and Orman, an independent, began rising in the polls, the group decided to join several others to try to save Roberts, and potentially a GOP takeover of the Senate.

Related: Republicans hit South Dakota airwaves

Kansas incumbent faces fierce challenge
Poll shows widening gap in Kansas race
GOP Sen. Roberts ties Orman to Obama

Orman's calling card is that he is a businessman outside Washington and outside the party structure, beholden to no one. It's a powerful weapon in an election where voters are even more fed up with politics and politicians than usual.

The Chamber's ad, which is set to air statewide in Kansas on broadcast and digital, is trying to crack that image of Orman by painting him as just another politician refusing to take positions on key issues, and follows the GOP talking point of the last few weeks -- linking Orman to President Obama and Democrats in the Senate.

It even uses the classic Obama campaign logo for the "O" in Orman.

Orman has donated to Democratic campaigns including Obama's in the past, and said he voted Democrat too. But he has also voted for GOP candidates. His line is that he tried both parties, and liked neither.

The ad also whacks Orman for refusing to say which party he would caucus with if he were to win the Senate seat. He has said he would caucus with the majority, but won't say what he would do if there is no clear majority and his decision on which party to back would be a deciding factor.

CNN / ORC Poll: Roberts rebounds in Kansas Senate race

CNN is told this initial ad buy is half a million dollars.

Scott Reed, former campaign manager for Bob Dole's presidential run, heads the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's political team. Dole, a longtime Kansas senator and good friend of Roberts, has been playing an active private and public role trying to prop him up.

Last week, CNN reported that several other conservative groups from all corners were also beginning to pour resources into Kansas, including the Koch brothers' group Americans for Prosperity.

Republicans had hoped to only be defending competitive seats in Georgia and Kentucky, but Roberts tarnished image in Kansas as someone who lost touch stuck with him even after he won a tough GOP primary earlier this year.

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