Kansas primary guide: Is Roberts dust in the wind or will he carry on?

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Buzz Cut:
• Kansas primary guide: Is Roberts dust in the wind or will he carry on?
• Steamed up: Twin tea party battles in Michigan
• Baier Tracks: Udall catches some breaks
• Rand goes all in on Israel support
• Just say you used to spend your winters north of Saskatoon

In their second-to-last chance to unseat an incumbent Republican senator this cycle, conservative activists have gone hard for Dr. Milton Wolf, a radiologist from suburban Kansas City who came to political fame for being a President Obama’s tea party cousin from Kansas. Today’s the day they will see if Sen. Pat Roberts, first elected to the House in 1980 and who rose to the Senate in 1996, is vulnerable. Roberts, 78, has a lead in the polls, but in a contest that will likely see fewer than 300,000 votes, outcomes are hard to predict.

[Watch the Fox News Channel for the latest coverage of tonight’s key primary contests, and track the races online at FoxNews.com]

East versus West - You can call this “tea party versus establishment” or “conservative versus moderate” but for our purposes it’s easier to think of this one as east versus west. Wolf will be looking to run up the score in the Kansas City suburbs, especially in vote-rich Johnson County. These suburban and exurban voters share less long-term ties to the state’s ancient, complicated Republicanism that pre-dates the Civil War. These voters look very much like those who have helped insurgents in other upsets this cycle. Meanwhile, Roberts, whose base is in Western Kansas, is looking to score everywhere else, but especially around Topeka. He has taken direct shots at Wolf for “not being for Western Kansas.”

Key counties for Roberts - Shawneee (Topeka) and Douglass (Lawrence)

Key counties for Wolf - Johnson (Overland Park, KC suburbs) and Sedgwick(Wichita)

Key battleground county - Butler, in the Wichita suburbs, should be friendly ground for the conservative Wolf. But if Roberts can trim Wolf’s lead here, Wolf will have few chances to run up the score elsewhere.

Bellwether - Franklin County and its county seat of Ottawa, sit on U.S. 50 between Kansas City and Emporia. The county only boasts about 25,000 residents but the way they go today will say a great deal about how small-town Kansans are thinking. If Roberts is ahead here, he can fire up the grill and lay on the cowboy cut ribeyes.

[As of the final pre-primary campaign filing finance report, Roberts’ campaign had spent more than $3.4 million, nearly four times more than Wolf.]

JMart played a part - It was Jonathan Martin of the NYT who helped make the race into something more than another summer snoozer. When he confronted Roberts in February with evidence of the senators’ thin claim to Kansas residency, the race immediately changed. But, of course, getting smoked by the NYT isn’t wholly bad thing in a GOP primary. Roberts told Kansas City’s KSHB: “I’ll tell you one thing, The New York Times and my opponent are not going to define me as to whether I’m a Kansan. I am a Kansan. And I think most Kansans understand that.”

[Roberts never accepted Wolf’s debate challenge, even after Wolf confronted him about in on a street corner. But the candidates (or at least their campaign staffers) certainly waged a robust battle on Twitter.]

Roberts learned from Lugar - The template for a Wolf win has been the successful primary challenge of Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., in 2012, who was similarly busted for not having a home in his state. Lugar’s defeat gave hope to conservatives like Wolf. The differences, though, have been that Roberts engaged earlier and more aggressively than Lugar and that Wolf has not proven as reassuring a candidate as Lugar’s challenger. While Lugar faced state Treasurer Richard Mourdock, a known entity to GOP voters, Roberts has been able to more easily define Wolf as unreliable or kooky. Wolf’s previous penchant for posting x rays on Facebook badly hurt the radiologist’s ability to use his status as a physician to reassure anxious voters. Also in Roberts’ favor: The Chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Sen. Jerry Moran, is from his home state and Moran is up to speed, having recently won a tough primary himself in 2010.

[Survey says - Fox News: “Roberts appears to be holding off Wolf in recent polls. A Survey USA poll a few weeks ago showed Roberts with a 20-point lead. However, 12 percent of voters were still undecided, and Wolf had narrowed a 33-point deficit from June.”]

Dems no joke in Kansas this year - One of Roberts’ best assets is that while Kansas is staunchly Republican, the climate in the state this year does not look good for an elephant stampede. Incumbent Republican Gov. Sam Brownback is struggling badly in his bid for a second term. While Brownback, a conservative insurgent himself, has mended fences with his own party, he is still lagging with the general electorate. This is a state, after all, that re-elected the very liberal Kathleen Sebelius as governor in 2006. As Republican voters have weighed the prospect of punishing Roberts for inconstancy and absence, they have had to bear in mind questions of electability. The all-but-certain Democratic nominee, Sean Taylor, the prosecuting attorney from Topeka, has impressed the Democratic base and would be well-situated to mount a campaign against Wolf.

Wolf hopes history repeats itself - Kansas Republicans have been here before. It was 1996 when then-freshman Rep. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., mounted an audacious challenge to the woman handpicked to be longtime Sen. Bob Dole’s replacement in the Senate. Brownback, who is the state’s governor today, defied party leaders to mount a successful grassroots challenge to Sen. Shelia Frahm, who got the nod when Dole resigned to launch his ill-fated bid to unseat President Bill Clinton that year. Brownback rallied conservative voters in the  eastern and southern corners of the state and delivered a shock to the state’s famously ossified political order. Brownback carried the populous suburbs of Kansas City and carried the day. Can it happen again today? Wolf sure hopes so.

Tight battle for Wichita House seat will drive turnout - In a heated Republican primary contest for Kansas’ 4th Congressional District, both incumbent Mike Pompeo and challenger, former Rep. Todd Tiahrt have the same message: Don’t trust the insiders. Each candidate accuses the other of losing touch with Kansans and becoming beholden to big government and outside interests. Wichita Eagle: “It’s a bitterly contested race and one that flips the national narrative about GOP primaries upside-down. Instead of a longtime incumbent facing a challenge from a relatively unknown tea party outsider, the challenger in this race has spent more time in Congress than the incumbent has. Tiahrt served the district for 16 years, then left to wage a losing campaign against Jerry Moran for the U.S. Senate. Pompeo won the House seat when Tiahrt left and has served for four years. The winner of the GOP primary on Aug. 5 will take on Wichita Democrat Perry Schuckman in the November general election.”

[Polls in Kansas close at 9:00 PM ET. For Results: Kansas Secretary of State]

Fox News: “…[T]wo Tea Party favorites… GOP Reps. Justin Amash and Kerry Bentivolio -- will be defending their House seats. Amash, endorsed by the Tea Party Express, appears to have a solid, double-digit lead in the challenge from businessman Brian Ellis. However, Ellis also has the backing of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which earlier in the year made clear its intentions to help defeat congressional incumbents unwilling to “work within the legislative process.” Bentivolio, who also has been endorsed by the Tea Party Express, is being challenged by attorney David Trott, who also is being endorsed by the chamber.”

Changing of the guard - Detroit Free Press: “Michigan has four key U.S. House seats to fill – those being vacated by U.S. Reps. John Dingell and Gary Peters, both Democrats, and Dave Camp and Mike Rogers, both Republicans. In each, Tuesday’s primaries will produce the likely winner. Dingell, Camp and Rogers are longtime House members whose seniority and sway in Congress will be tough to recover no matter who replaces them. In Dingell’s case, his wife,Debbie…is considered a strong front-runner in the Democratic primary against…Ray Mullins, and the likely choice to replace her husband — the longest-serving member of Congress in history – next year.”

[Polls in Michigan close at 9:00 pm ET. For Results: Michigan Secretary of State]

AP: “The contest [in today’s Washington state primary] that is getting the most attention is the 4th Congressional District race to replace U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings, [R-Was.] who is retiring after two decades in the seat. A dozen candidates — eight Republicans, two independents and two Democrats — are vying for Hastings' job. Four Republicans appear to be the front-runners for the central Washington district: Dan Newhouse, a former state legislator and director of the state Department of Agriculture; Clint Didier, a former NFL star and now a farmer and tea party candidate; state Sen. Janea Holmquist and attorney George Cicotte.”

[Polls in Washington close at 11:00 pm ET. For Results: Washington Secretary of State]

Missouri voters head to the polls today, too. At issue are a host of ballot initiatives ranging from a transportation tax hike to special protections for farming and gun ownership.

[Missouri polls close at 8:00 pm ET. For Results: Missouri Secretary of State]

Daily Caller: “Claiming the existence of at least 15,000 questionable votes, [State Senator] Chris McDaniel said Monday that he is formally challenging incumbent Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran’s victory in June 24’s Republican Senate primary. ‘They asked us to put up or shut up,’ McDaniel said at a news conference outside his attorney’s office. ‘Here we are. Here we are with the evidence.’ McDaniel’s lead attorney, Mitch Tyner, said the campaign has found evidence of 3,500 crossover votes — Democrats who were ineligible to vote in the Republican run-off because they had previously voted in the Democratic primary. Tyner also claimed to have found another 9,500 irregular votes and 2,275 absentee votes improperly cast in the run-off.”

Nevermind… - Washington Examiner: “A Democratic activist [Ruth Harris, 65, of Jackson, Miss.] has claimed responsibility for controversial radio ads that attempted to tie Mississippi Senate candidate Chris McDaniel to the Ku Klux Klan.…Harris’ claim counters charges leveled by the McDaniel campaign that the Republican Establishment and GOP operative Henry Barbour were responsible for the ads.”

Partly in a bid to prevent the frustrations of conservatives in neighboring Mississippi from spilling over into Thursday’s Tennessee primary, Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, considered safe in his bid for a second term, rallied supporters for Sen. Lamar Alexander in the Memphis suburbs on Monday. From the Memphis Daily News: “‘We have an open primary. As a result of our open door, we have many candidates,’ Alexander said of the opposition. ‘The result is that we have a larger Republican party, a more conservative Republican party and thanks to Gov. Haslam and the state legislature a more successful Republican party. They are actually doing something with the majority.’”

AP: “It was a scrappier version of Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell [R-Alaska] who took the stage at Republican U.S. Senate debate Monday, going toe-to-toe with Joe Miller at times, other times taking the brunt of Miller's jabs at establishment Republicans along with Dan Sullivan.” The primary election will be held on Aug. 19.

Scientists believe they have unlocked the secret formula for happiness. Researchers at the University of London have actually developed a formula they say can predict momentary happiness and have spelled it out in a mathematical model. “We can look at past decisions and outcomes and predict exactly how happy you will say you are at any point in time,” says the study’s lead author Dr. Robb Rutledge from University College London. “The brain is trying to figure out what you should be doing in the world to get rewards, so all the decisions, expectations and the outcomes are information it's using to make sure you make good decisions in the future. All of the recent expectations and rewards combine to determine your current state of happiness,” he said interview with the BBC.

Got a TIP from the RIGHT or LEFT? Email FoxNewsFirst@FOXNEWS.COM

Real Clear Politics Averages
Obama Job Approval
: Approve – 41.7 percent//Disapprove – 55.1 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 26 percent//Wrong Track – 64.3 percent
Generic Congressional Ballot:  Democrats – 44 percent// Republicans 43 percent

“Colorado Democratic Senator Mark Udall is in the political fight of his life trying to hold onto his seat this fall. The incumbent faces a stiff challenge from Republican Congressman Cory Gardner, who trails Udall by less than two points in the Real Clear Politics average of recent polls. But in recent days, Udall caught two BIG breaks.

First, the House debacle Thursday and Friday that led to a final vote for supplemental funding to deal with the crisis on the Southern border. The House bill included a provision that would overturn President Obama's executive order permitting so-called “Dreamers” – kids of illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. – to stay in the country.  Gardner had to vote against the provision for fear of a backlash from Colorado’s roughly 15 percent Hispanic voters – an awkward vote against his leadership.

Second, Udall got a helping hand from his fellow Colorado Democrats. On Monday, a deal was struck to keep two anti-fracking measures off the ballot. According to the WSJ, several groups were pushing the measures to stop or dramatically scale back the state’s fracking – ‘a drilling technique that injects large amount of water, sand and smaller amounts of chemicals deep underground to unlock oil and natural gas – that has come under increasing scrutiny from communities and environmentalists.’ Energy will factor heavily in the Colorado Senate race. The Journal reports that largely because of fracking, ‘natural-gas production in Colorado in the past several years has increased by [21percent] and oil production has more than doubled.’ That poses a political dilemma for Udall, who is trying to please all sides. The deal to keep the measures off the ballot and move the issue to an ‘advisory panel’ set up by the Democratic Governor, who is also up for re-election, is another win for Udall.

There are other issues, but this has been was a good six days for Mark Udall.” – Bret Baier

-- 91 days until Nov. 4 --

Weekly Standard: “…Rep. Tom Cotton, the GOP Senate candidate in Arkansas, has put his Democratic opponent's support for amnesty for illegal immigrants at the center of his new TV ad. ‘Senator Mark Pryor voted for amnesty, citizenship for illegals’ says the ad's voiceover. ‘Pryor voted against a border fence three times, and now Pryor ignores the crisis.’ The ad then shows a clip from July 20. ‘We have a much more secure border today than we did ten years ago,’ Pryor says on a local TV talk show. ‘Seriously, Senator?’ the voiceover asks, incredulously, before playing the Pryor clip again.”

[The Senate Majority PAC is accusing Cotton of wanting to end the “Medicare guarantee” in a new ad.]

Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail: “The campaign chairman for Democratic Senate nominee Natalie Tennant recently said Tennant agrees with President Barack Obama ‘on most of his policies.’ Maj. Gen. Allen Tackett, the retired head of the West Virginia National Guard, misspoke when he made the statement Saturday in Logan before a Democratic campaign event, Tennant campaign spokeswoman Jenny Donohue said. ‘The general misspoke. Natalie does not support the majority of the president’s policies,’ Donohue said Monday evening…  A tracker, a person paid to follow political candidates and capture comments on tape, filmed Tackett making the statement. The video was posted to YouTube Monday.”

The Hill: “The United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) has endorsed Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky’s Senate race, despite Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s attempts to paint her as an enemy of coal. In a statement, the UMWA said Grimes has proven herself to be a coal advocate.”

[Fox News: “A Democratic operative deleted her Twitter account Monday following a series of what some called racist remarks about Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao.]

Republicans are hoping to pick up an additional six seats to gain control of the Senate this November. Which Democrat-held seats will prove to be the most likely flips for the red team? The current consensus among Fox News First readers: Arkansas (13.6%), Montana (11.9%), Louisiana (11.8%), West Virginia (11.2%), South Dakota (10.5%) and North Carolina (10.0%).  Reader Jerry James agrees… mostly: “I do think [Republican Senate nominee] Thom Tillis will win in NC, but it will be closer than Iowa.”

Share your top six picks. Email them – just your top six, please – to FOXNEWSFIRST@FOXNEWS.COM or tweet @cstirewalt.

Daily Caller: “[California Democratic Congresswoman] Julia Brownley sent a political mailer to her constituents in late July featuring a woman wearing fake military attire and a German Luftwaffe insignia – apparently unaware that the costume was not an official uniform worn by U.S. personnel.”

Yahoo News: “…Sen. Rand Paul, [R-Ky.,] on Monday denied that he once supported ending federal aid to Israel – an idea he proposed as recently as 2011. ‘I haven’t really proposed that in the past,’ Paul told Yahoo News when asked if he still thought the U.S. should phase out aid to Israel, which has been battling Hamas in Gaza for weeks. ‘We’ve never had a legislative proposal to do that. You can mistake my position, but then I’ll answer the question. That has not been a position – a legislative position – we have introduced to phase out or get rid of Israel’s aid. That’s the answer to that question. Israel has always been a strong ally of ours and I appreciate that. I voted just this week to give money – more money – to the Iron Dome, so don’t mischaracterize my position on Israel’… last week the Senate approved $225 million to help support Israel’s Iron Dome technology, which blocks rocket fire from Gaza. (Paul supported the measure.)”

Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton’s political action committee will concentrate its efforts on the Senate races in Arkansas, North Carolina and New Hampshire. The group, which focuses on backing hawkish GOP candidates, announced that it has set its sights on unseating Sens. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., and Kay Hagan, D-N.C., than Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.

Frack, baby, frack - Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton joins natural gas mogul T. Boone Pickens to tout more aggressive use of the fuel as well as the exporting of oil as ways to advance national security in light of the current conflicts in the Middle East. From their op-ed in Politico: “America needs political leaders ready to seize the moment and mesh domestic economic growth and a stronger U.S. international position. Those leaders may not be present in Washington today, but aspiring politicians who understand our analysis could well be the leaders of tomorrow.”

Bloomberg: “… Gov. Rick Perry, [R-Texas] who’s weighing a White House bid in 2016, has formed a federal political action committee to aid fellow Republican candidates in the Nov. 4 elections. RickPAC was created with the ‘goal of helping elect Republicans to office who share the governor’s philosophy of low taxes, limited government, border security, and job creation,’  Mark Miner, a spokesman for the PAC, said in an interview. The Federal Election Commission processed the PAC’s statement of organization on July 31.”

According to reports, GOP 2012 Presidential nominee Mitt Romney will be a “special guest” for Gov. Chris Christie’s, R-N.J., birthday fundraiser next month. The fundraiser for the New Jersey Republican Party is slated for September in East Brunswick, N.J., and will coincide with the Garden state governor’s 52nd birthday.

While Gov. Martin O’Malley, D-Md., has been anything but coy about his 2016 intentions, he has been careful not to criticize Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton. But in a Monday interview with Fusion, O’Malley told Jorge Ramos, “I have certainly cherished my relationship and working relationship not only with Secretary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton, but also with President Obama,” but added, “I believe also that we need to make better choices.”

[Bubba and Obama will share the stage today at a U.S.-Africa business summit.]

The “Official Scrabble Players Dictionary” is due out Aug. 11. New entries include: “selfie,” “texter,” “vlog,” “bromance,” “hashtag” and “dubstep.” But sure to be extremely popular is one you’ve almost certainly never heard of. AP: “Among the highest potential scorers among the new additions is [from the Athabascan Indians of Canada:] ‘quinzhee,’ a shelter made by hollowing out a pile of snow. Played on the board’s top row, ending at the top right through an existing ‘u,’ and a player can score 401 points, including the 50-point ‘bingo’ bonus for using all seven tiles.”

“I think this is a bogus argument, the president saying that the Republicans haven’t acted. … The Republicans have acted. That’s a real bill, and it incorporates exactly what the president himself had said he wanted to do, change the ‘08 [immigration] law, and provide the money to help the kids who are already here. He has the two elements everyone had originally agreed had to be done for the crisis, until [President Obama] had a meeting with his left, and caved in.” – Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.” Watch here.

Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News. Want FOX News First in your inbox every day? Sign up