"We know Greg Orman supports Barack Obama's agenda: amnesty, Obamacare, and higher taxes. But even more troubling is Orman's business record," the latest ad from the Roberts campaign boasts over dark and ominous music. "Greg Orman doesn't want you to know how liberal he really is. He's with the Obama administration on protecting the train wreck known as Obamacare," a Chamber of Commerce ad says as Orman's face is shown in the middle of an Obama campaign logo.
And it appears to be working. Among the September polls that found Roberts trailing Orman, the senator's approval was consistently low. But since LaCivita and Roberts's GOP allies have been driving this negative campaign, Orman's approval has fallen, and polls now show the race neck-and-neck. (An NBC News/Marist poll conducted at the end of September showed Orman leading by 10 points, with likely voters favoring him over Roberts, 48 percent to 38 percent. A survey conducted by Monmouth University a few weeks later showed the race deadlocked, as have other surveys. At the same time, Orman's favorability ratings have fallen in several polls.)
That means the damage LaCivita is inflicting on Orman took a race that was slipping away from the GOP and brought it back to deadlock.
Meanwhile, Roberts's approval numbers have remained low—in a recent automated poll by the GOP firm Remington Research, which showed Roberts with a slight advantage over Orman, more people said they viewed Roberts negatively than positively. Part of that is due to the beating Roberts took during the primary, as his tea-party challenger relentlessly attacked the senator for no longer residing in the state he represents. Though he still owns a home in Kansas, Roberts rents that property out, and sleeps on a recliner at a donor's house when he comes in from Washington.
And after limping through the primary with less than 50 percent of the vote, Roberts retreated to Virginia, giving his opponents yet more material to work with and leaving the airwaves open for Orman to attack. In fact, over six weeks, Orman ran more ads than Roberts had during the entire primary.
That's when the National Republican Senatorial Committee sent in the fixers. "First thing the Roberts campaign had to do was fix its right wing," LaCivita said of his team's strategy.
To repair the damaged relationship with conservatives after Roberts's primary, LaCivita said the campaign focused its attention on uniting Republicans. That plan has included visits on the trail from surrogates across the Republican spectrum, including former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, tea-party favorite Sarah Palin, and even libertarian-leaning Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky.
LaCivita sees a path to victory in getting Roberts to 75 to 80 percent of the Republican vote, a goal he deemed achievable if the campaign framed it as a race against the president.