This post has been updated.
The campaign for Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) is seizing on Vice President Joe Biden’s comments in an Election Day interview in a huge last-day effort to portray Greg Orman as a closet Democrat in what could end up being the closest Senate race in the country.
The Roberts campaign is spinning Biden’s comments in a radio interview with WPLR in New Haven, Conn., in which Biden said that Orman “will be with us.” The core of Roberts’ strategy has been to paint Orman as a secret Democrat, while Orman has strained to maintain his independence.
A source with the Roberts campaign told TPM that the campaign would contact one million voters on Tuesday with automated calls featuring the comments.
What exactly Biden meant is a little more open to debate, though that isn’t stopping the Roberts campaign from spinning it as an admission that — as they have long argued — Orman is effectively a Democratic candidate. The race is tight going into Election Day; according to TPM’s PollTracker average, Orman has a 2.3-point lead.
The line of questioning started with the WPLR hosts asking Biden if the Democrats would hold the Senate. “I think they will hold the Senate,” Biden said.
He was then asked to run through some of the specifics races. When he got to Kansas, Biden said: “We have a chance of picking up … an independent who will be with us in the state of Kansas.”
Was that a tacit acknowledgement that, as some believe, Democrats pushed their nominee Chad Taylor out of the race to open up the race for Orman, with the understanding that he would still caucus with the Democrats? Maybe, and that is certainly how the Roberts campaign sought to portray it.
But the truth could be a little more mundane. Biden was working from the assumption that Democrats would keep the Senate and, as he predicted they would win in places like Alaska and Georgia, to do so comfortably. Orman has always said that he would caucus with the majority. That might have been all that the vice president meant.
But Republicans are leaping at the chance to make more of it — which says a lot about how close they believe this race is in its final day.
Orman’s camp predictably pushed back agains that portrayal of Biden’s comments.
“Greg’s never spoken to the vice president in his life,” Orman campaign manager Jim Jonas said in a statement to reporters. “Greg is an independent, and he’s not going to Washington represent the Democrats or the Republicans — he’s going to represent the people of Kansas.”