More than any man alive Sen. Pat Roberts owes his re-election to the still sharp political instincts of my old boss Senator Bob Dole. Dole, 91, toured Kansas visiting all 105 counties last April and first picked up discontent with Roberts expressed at the cookies and ice cream events Dole conducted in each county. Dole informed operatives at the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the US Chamber of Commerce that Pat "would need help". Some today are citing Dole as "the canary in the coalmine."

In a bid to unite opposition to Roberts, the Democratic nominee dropped out on Sept. 3. Wealthy Independent Greg Orman had pledged to caucus with the party that wins a Senate majority, helping him draw bipartisan support.

Dole spent 20 days campaigning for Roberts including the crucial last seven days. Roberts, having been swept to the Senate when Dole carried the state in the 1996 Presidential election, had never been in a competitive race. Lugar-like he also gave up residence in the state and appeared to have “lost touch”. At the same time NRSC polls showed Dole’s approval in Kansas at a stunning 74%.

Ten days before the election inside pollsters had Roberts down 43-45. Dole began traveling with Roberts to teach him how to campaign. “By the end he was a good candidate and stayed on message” one US Chamber official told me.

Dole counseled the Washington operatives to paint Orman as a liberal Democrat. “He gave to Hillary, he gave to Reid” Dole barked “Let the voters know”. When Orman made the mistake of calling the Republicans touring the state for Roberts “clowns”, Dole skillfully sprung the trap. Within 20 minutes the revered Dole was demanding an apology and got one.

Dole was careful in his efforts to bridge the gap between conservatives and moderates in the GOP, being careful to endorse and appear with Governor Sam Brownback for whom he has no particular use. Dole called Washington every morning for tracking poll results. The Monday before the election he told nervous operatives in Washington, “Pat will be OK”.

With polls showing the undecideds and Independents leaning Republican, Vice President Biden in his latest gaffe blurted out the Orman would organize with Senate Democrats the Friday before the election. By Saturday morning Dole robo calls to undecided echoed Biden’s message. Final Republican polls showed Roberts pulling ahead 47-45.