Will the “War on Women” Keep Colorado Perpetually Blue?

coloradoLiving in Colorado, I’ve been seeing a lot of dueling campaign commercials lately between U.S. Senator Mark Udall, who is a Democrat, and his Republican challenger, U.S. Congressman Corey Gardner. The two are squaring off in November in what strategists see as a vitally important race that may just decide which party will hold the majority in the U.S. Senate.

Both sides have spelled out their strategies pretty clearly through what they’ve been broadcasting.

Gardner is primarily hitting Udall on his support for everything Obama, pointing out a record of voting with the president (who has lost a lot of popularity in the state) 99% of the time. More specifically, he’s been going after things like Udall’s support for Obamacare, and his opposition to the Keystone Pipeline (economic and jobs issues). Udall, on the other hand, is nailing Gardner for his endorsement of a voter-rejected amendment to the state constitution four years ago, that would have defined personhood as “every human being from the beginning of the biological development of that human being.” It was an anti-abortion measure.

If one were judging the wisdom of the opposing campaign blueprints based on what voters say are the most important issues to them, one would have to give Gardner the edge. After all, jobs and the economy have been the primary concerns of Americans (including Coloradans) for quite some time. Most within the state oppose Obamacare, and most support oil drilling, including fracking which has been great economically for Colorado. Udall has been skittish about his position on fracking while Gardner is a big proponent of it.

Based on recent election history, however, the cynic in me doesn’t see how Udall (even in this very tight race) can lose if he simply sticks with the Democrats’ proven “War on Women” rhetoric, claiming that his foe, if elected, will ban women from using contraceptives.

It’s precisely the same playbook that won Democrat Michael Bennet his U.S. Senate seat back in 2010, even as the historic Tea Party Tsunami flipped seats throughout the rest of the country, letting the Republicans capture the House of Representatives. It was also part of the Democrats’ Colorado strategy when President Obama ran for re-election in 2012, and handily won our electoral votes here.

Republicans in my state keep calling the empty rhetoric old, tired, dishonest, and a distraction – all of which are true in my opinion. That doesn’t change the fact, however, that the method continues to be effective at compelling people to vote against their stated self-interests and priorities, simply to punish a candidate whose social view (or at least perceived social view) they disagree with.

For whatever reason, Colorado is particularly susceptible to this form of identity politics, as former U.S. Senate candidate Ken Buck found out four years ago.

As mentioned above, Gardner’s record has provided some ammunition to the Democrats. The broadness of the personhood amendment, which Gardner later disavowed and called his support for “a well-intentioned mistake”, would have indeed restricted certain forms of birth control. Gardner says that wasn’t his intent, and has tried to make that clear by now supporting the idea of making contraceptives available over-the-counter in Colorado.

Udall and his supporters aren’t letting that slide, however. Their key focus has been to point to the personhood initiative as evidence that Gardner is “too extreme” for Colorado. And predictably, it seems to be working. The issue has built a solid advantage for Udall among women voters, and Gardner can’t seem to make up any new ground in the very tight race.

All of this might change by November, of course, but I’m not counting on it. And as a conservative who recognizes the big picture problems that are going on in this country right now, the fact that elections keep being decided by eye-rolling hyperbole, like contraception fear-mongering, is nothing short of maddening.

Our country faces incredibly serious problems. We’re approaching an $18 trillion national debt with a chronically-low economic growth rate. The entitlement culture continues to expand well beyond our capacity to sustain it, while more and more Americans continue to leave the workforce. Full-time jobs are being replaced with part-time jobs nationwide. Our country’s dwindling influence on the world stage is emboldening our enemies and encouraging violent unrest across the globe. The Affordable Care Act is increasing the cost of healthcare, while limiting its quality and disrupting doctor-patient relationships. Corrupt government agencies are using their power to hurt political foes, and stonewall investigations.

Yet, our leaders in the Washington majority, who are fueling and presiding over this catastrophic mess, seem to be able to maintain power in these close contests simply by accusing their opponents of misogyny.

In the case of Colorado, the best evidence being presented to bolster such a notion is Gardner’s inconsequential support of what comes down to (as it applies to constituents, anyway) a mere difference of opinion. The definition of personhood was never going to be changed by politicians. It’s the kind of decision that is left directly up to voters within a state, just as gay marriage and marijuana legalization are.

When I see voters ignore all of the big problems that are causing them pain, just to send a message to someone that they don’t like what that person thinks (or supposedly thinks) about a social issue, I can’t help but feel as if we’ve abandoned all perspective – not just here in Colorado, but across the nation.

I’m not sure what’s more discouraging: The simplicity of some people’s voting rationale, or the fact that Republican strategists still don’t seem to recognize what I’ve just described. They continue to advise candidates to run logical, big-picture, issues-driven campaigns against their Democratic opponents instead of doing what their opponents are successfully doing to them: Establishing them as being too dangerous to serve in public office.

I’m not saying Republicans should abandon the big-ticket items. I’m saying that they should, in addition to what they’ve been doing, start evoking some emotion… And for heaven’s sake, also stop forfeiting the “too extreme” mantra to their Democratic attackers.

For example, why aren’t Republican candidates calling on their Democratic opponents to make their views clear on an issue like late-term (third- or late-second trimester) abortions, which a strong majority of Americans adamantly oppose? Why aren’t they putting their Democratic opponents in the uncomfortable position of having to defend the practice (which is what their liberal base will expect them to do)? The ending of a life, at a point during the reproductive process when two human beings are indisputably involved, appeals to people’s reflexive sense of right and wrong. That’s what would make it an affective campaign issue, and it wouldn’t even have to be called a “War on Babies.”

Why on earth aren’t Democratic candidates, who are at odds with the majority of voters on any specific issue,  being labeled as “too extreme” by their Republican opponents’ campaigns? Forget the “out of the mainstream” phrase some Republicans like to use. That’s too polite. Republicans should be calling Democrats “too extreme” every single time they get the opportunity. They should toss the charge around just as liberally as liberals do.
From a Dead Sleep by John A. Daly
Why? Well, it seems to me that if the phrase is continually thrown back and forth across party lines, instead of just by Democrats at Republicans (like has been the case thus far), its effectiveness will quickly wane. Voters will stop taking it seriously, and that would be a good thing for Republicans who have, so far, turned the other cheek and let themselves be branded with the term.

At some point, you have to fight fire with fire in order to appeal to a segment of the electorate that only looks up to see what’s going on when someone’s actually yelling, “fire!” I can only hope that the Republicans (in my state and others) manage to figure that out before November.

Author Bio:

John Daly couldn't have cared less about world events and politics until the horrific 9/11 terrorist attacks changed his perspective. Since then, he's been deeply engaged in the news of the day with a particular interest in how that news is presented. Realizing the importance of the media in a free, democratic society, John has long felt compelled to identify media injustices when he sees them. With a B.S. in Business Administration, and a 16 year background in software and web development, John has found that his real passion is for writing. His first novel, entitled "From a Dead Sleep", is now on sale! He lives in Northern Colorado with his wife and two children. Like John on Facebook. Follow John on Twitter.
Author website: http://www.johndalybooks.com/
  • RMN

    You could volunteer your services to the Gardner campaign to help craft a winning message. Show us the way John.

  • carl

    Whoever thinks that there is a “war on women” is a moron.

    • http://johndalybooks.com/ John Daly

      Or gullible or misinformed…The problem is that those people still vote.

  • libertysuzyq

    Well said. I guarantee, though, that once again Republicans in this state won’t get it, and they will lose most spectacularly come November.

    • http://johndalybooks.com/ John Daly

      Hope not.

  • Brian Mcfarlane

    A Quinnipiac poll put out 7-17-14 shows Rep. Cory Gardner up by two over Sen. Mark Udall (44%-42%), Gravis Marketing also released its own poll showing Gardner up by four over Udall (47%-43%). I think the “war on women” rhetoric” IS getting worn out… this isn’t 2010 or 2012. Gardner, so far has not made the same mistakes that Buck did when he lost to Bennett. Still a ways to go till November election but these polls are indicating a shift. Also NY Times, Senate forecast at The Upshot predicts Udall has a greater chance of losing reelection than winning (53%-47%).

    • http://johndalybooks.com/ John Daly

      I’m hoping he pulls out the victory, but Colorado’s been letting me down a lot in recent years. Plus, Dems usually under-poll here.

      • Brian Mcfarlane

        Colorado certainly has been heading blue lately but I think the over-reach of the Dem led state legislature in 2013 opened some eyes on both sides of the aisle. Dems also don’t vote very well in “off-year” elections.
        I know, I am too optimistic.

        • http://johndalybooks.com/ John Daly

          Nothing wrong with being optimistic! Part of me wonders if a lot of libs will stay home, just because they won’t need to vote to legalize marijuana anymore. ;)

  • Truth

    Actually, we are now getting further from an 18T national debt. We ran a surplus last quarter!! ;D

    • Kevin Snyder

      Bull puckey. Quit changing definitions. You can’t spend more money than you take in and call it a surplus.

    • http://johndalybooks.com/ John Daly

      Wrong on both accounts.

  • Coach Tom

    I too am tired of seeing the Udall “war on women” themed commercials dominate the airwaves during the evening TV segments and have wondered aloud when the Republican counter attack will begin. Udall is successfully turning this campaign into a single (non) issue contest via his manipulation of suburban, college educated, independent affiliated females and their brainwashed sentiments about birth control. Meanwhile the Republicans continue to dance around the maypole celebrating amongst themselves what a wonderful candidate they have in Gardner (and Beauprez for that matter!). Heck, nobody I’ve talked to even knows who he is and what he stands for or plans to do when he takes office.

    I’ve also noted that just about every Udall ad contains a specific negative reference to his opponent. Negativity works and the other side is already applying it. You won’t win if you let your opponent define who you are and what you stand for.

    • http://johndalybooks.com/ John Daly

      Agree with everything you wrote. The Dems define their opponents early and often. I have yet to see Udall be put on the defensive by Republicans, in any notable way.

  • CynthiaUm

    You nailed it exactly. Now, how can we demand that these pinheaded GOP strategists start fighting fire with fire or get out of the way? Stupid is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Duh.

    • http://johndalybooks.com/ John Daly

      Hard to say. Sharing columns like this with the right people might be a good start, but it’s hard to know if anyone would ever pay attention.

      • Brian Mcfarlane

        http://coloradopeakpolitics.com/2014/07/21/peak-feed-udalllied-com-releases-underwear-in-a-bundle-ad/

        I would like to share this article. It is an ad that apparently started yesterday on Udall and women. It starts with this…

        “… Hi Senator Udall. It’s Laura Carno, a constituent of yours from Colorado Springs.

        Senator Udall, I just tried Googling “Buy Birth Control” and I got over seventy three million results. Seventy three million. It seems birth control is about as easy to get as an aspirin.”

      • CynthiaUm

        We must find out who is running these campaigns (Beauprez’s as well) and DEMAND that they read your article and prepare to fight the opposition on his/her own turf. (I know, I know…like herding cats) Or the losers will lose again.

  • treedirt10000 .

    Colorado native here who has watched California license plate after plate arrive over the last decade. As California crumbles and becomes just plain stupid to live in due to its left leaning policies (like being fined for using water and fined for brown grass from not using water), they have started destroying our once great state with their idiotic mindset. We used to have a nice balance, now this state is starting to falter as well.

    • http://johndalybooks.com/ John Daly

      I’ve noticed this as well. Such people ruined their home state to the point where they had to leave, and now they’re working on doing the same thing here. It boggles my mind how many people can’t recognize the results of their own efforts.

  • cmacrider

    John: your comments are right on in relation to the Reps. having to alter their tactics. The other thing which I, as a Canadian, find mystifying is that the Republicans never seem to develop a simple 5 point platform which they drive home incessantly. Harper and the Canadian Conservatives seem to follow this formula with success. In so doing they successfully frame the election debate and marginalize their opponents. For example … the only thing we heard from the Conservatives in the last general election was that in an international financial crisis Canada needs a “strong stable national Conservative majority government.” That phrase was pounded home through the media until it was indelibly imprinted on every voters mind.

    • http://johndalybooks.com/ John Daly

      >>John: your comments are right on in relation to the Reps. having to alter their tactics.

      Thanks.

      >>Republicans never seem to develop a simple 5 point platform which they drive home incessantly.

      I think Republican candidates do this individually in their own campaigns, but I think it would help greatly to have a unified message like the one you’re describing. They had one while Bush was in office (at least during his first term), but with the GOP currently splintered in a few different directions, it seems to be tough to get everyone to work together to build a brand.