WICHITA, Kansas — Potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush weighed in to a key midterm election race on Monday, telling a Kansas fundraiser for struggling Sen. Pat Roberts that the incumbent must be re-elected so the GOP can take control of the Senate and "fix a few big things" in Washington.
The former Florida governor told about 180 supporters that Roberts, who is facing an unexpectedly strong challenge from an independent candidate, would not let them down if re-elected, and a GOP Senate would solve problems.
"This is the most pessimistic America has ever been," Bush told a $100-a-plate fundraiser, adding that pessimism makes it hard to move forward as a nation.
Americans are feeling negative because their son or daughter has graduated for college with student loan debt and cannot find a job, or they have seen their health insurance dropped or work hours cut because of the health care reform act.
Bush said progressive politicians believe they can regulate and tax to prosperity for a select group of people while "the rest of us suffer."
Republicans are scrambling to save the 78-year-old Roberts from defeat in a state that has elected only GOP Senators since 1932. A loss in Kansas would make it harder for the party to make a net gain of six seats for a Senate majority in President Barack Obama's last two years in office.
Unlike other potential 2016 presidential contenders, Bush kept a relatively low public profile for much of the year. But he has stepped up his fundraising and campaigning for GOP candidates as the election approaches. He is appearing Tuesday in Arkansas with the GOP candidate for governor there, Asa Hutchinson.
His visit to Kansas comes just days after former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin campaigned with Roberts. Two former presidential nominees, U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona and former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas, joined Roberts on the campaign trail last week. Another potential 2016 White House candidate, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, is also expected to help Roberts' campaign.
Roberts is battling independent candidate, Greg Orman, after the Democratic candidate withdrew from the race. Roberts narrowly survived a bruising primary against a tea party-backed candidate, and after 30 years representing the state in Washington there have been questions whether he has a Kansas residence.
"We are in a tough fight everybody knows that, but we are going to win this race," Roberts told supporters.
Orman campaign manager Jim Jonas said in an email that the independent is running against the broken system in Washington.
"No amount of false attack ads or visiting politicians will change the fact that Kansans know the hyper-partisan politics of Washington don't work and that Pat Roberts is part of the problem," Jonas said.
Bush's fundraiser for Roberts was the same day as a three-judge state district court panel in Topeka heard arguments in a lawsuit filed by a disgruntled voter over Democratic nominee Chad Taylor's withdrawal earlier this month.
The lawsuit argues that a state election law requires Democrats to pick a new nominee. The party disagrees and says the law merely spells out the process for picking a new candidate if the party wishes to do it.
AP Political Writer John Hanna contributed to this report from Topeka.
Pat Roberts campaign: http://www.robertsforsenate.com
Greg Orman campaign: http://www.ormanforsenate.com/