Independent candidate threatens to upset GOP hold in Kansas

Competitive Kansas race threatens GOP senate ... 02:13

INDEPENDENCE, KAN. - In just six weeks, voters will go to the polls to cast their votes in the midterm elections. At stake is control of the Senate. Republicans believe they can pick up the six seats they need to retake the majority in the Senate, but now an unusual race in Kansas, one of the reddest states in the country, is threatening to upend those plans.

This is not where Republican senator Pat Roberts expected to find himself six weeks before election day...serving up pancakes with Sarah Palin in Independence, Kan., fighting to save the seat he's held since 1996.

"Every square inch of the Republican party knows what's at stake," said Roberts at a Thursday rally.

Battle for the Senate: Republicans keep their... 04:35

Polls show businessman Greg Orman, who had once been a registered Republican, briefly ran for the Senate in 2008 as a Democrat but is now running as an independent, has pulled even with Roberts.

"You know, I've tried both parties and I've generally been disappointed," Orman said.

Now a series of GOP all-stars like Sen. John McCain are flying in to help the 78-year-old incumbent.

"If it he's independent I'm an astronaut," said McCain.

"You have a friend in Washington, and his name is Pat Roberts," he said to an applauding crowd.

This in a state President Obama lost in 2012 by 22 points.

Roberts tried to explain why Orman is running neck and neck with him in a red state like Kansas.

"Well," I'll tell ya," he said. "He was recruited by Harry Reid! He was recruited by Claire McCaskill! They even got the Democrat off the ballot in Kansas! I've never seen that before!

The Democrat in the race dropped out three weeks ago to give Orman a better shot against Roberts, who had been weakened by a tough primary challenge from a Tea Party candidate.

Which party would get Kansas independent Greg... 02:37

Orman was asked about which party he would caucus with in Washington. Democrat or Republican.

"Well you know that's a very interesting question," Orman said. "What I've suggested about that is if one party is in the majority in Congress its going to serve the voters of Kansas for me to caucus with that party in the majority."

There's no guarantee for Democrats that Orman would side with them. But it's a risk they're willing to take in a state that hasn't sent a Democrat to the U.S. Senate since 1932.

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    Nancy Cordes is CBS News' congressional correspondent.