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Can Bob Dole Save Kansas Republicans?

Albert R. Hunt is a Bloomberg View columnist. He was the executive editor of Bloomberg News, before which he was a reporter, bureau chief and executive Washington editor at the Wall Street Journal.
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Bob Dole, the veteran Republican warrior, is coming to the rescue of a Kansas colleague who once turned his back on a personal mission of Dole's.

The former Senate Republican leader today campaigned in his home state for incumbent Senator Pat Roberts, who is struggling to survive. Yet Roberts, along with most other Senate Republicans, rebuffed Dole's personal lobbying to approve the United Nations treaty on the rights of people with disabilities.

The disabilities treaty, largely modeled after the Americans With Disabilities Act, has been ratified by more than 140 countries and endorsed by former President George H.W. Bush, veterans groups and the American business community. However, it has drawn fire from conservative groups, such as home-schooling advocates, and has been unable to muster the two-thirds Senate vote required for ratification.

The 91-year-old Dole, who was severely wounded in World War II, has made the disabilities pact a major cause of his latter years, even personally going to the Senate in 2012 to enlist support. Roberts's predecessor as senator, Nancy Kassebaum, also called him to urge, "you owe this to Bob." But Roberts brushed them both aside, succumbing to the opposition to the treaty from right-wing critics.

Roberts survived a primary scare this year from a conservative challenger and was favored to win the general election; Kansas has sent only Republicans to the Senate since 1932. But an independent, Greg Orman, has generated enthusiasm; earlier this month, Democratic nominee Chad Taylor dropped out, boosting Orman's prospects. The race now is rated a toss-up by some experts and polls.

The Kansas Republican Party has been wracked by internal divisions. Dole, still popular in a state he represented in Congress for three and half decades, is likely to boost his embattled colleague. The billionaire Koch brothers also are mounting an independent expenditure to try to save Roberts.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

To contact the author on this story:
Albert R Hunt at ahunt1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor on this story:
Toby Harshaw at tharshaw@bloomberg.net