Here in Colorado, a funny thing happened on the way to the ballot box: The reliably liberal Denver Post endorsed Republican Congressman and U.S. Senate candidate Cory Gardner over incumbent Democratic Senator Mark Udall.
Why did this happen? Because Mark Udall’s campaign has been — as I predicted three months ago on these pages — an unrelentingly negative and mindless barrage of “war on women” drivel.
Even the Post, whose editors noted that “we disagree with (Gardner) on same-sex marriage and abortion rights,” recognized that “Udall’s campaign has devoted a shocking amount of energy and money trying to convince voters that Gardner seeks to outlaw birth control despite the congressman’s call for over-the-counter sales of contraceptives. Udall is trying to frighten voters rather than inspire them with a hopeful vision. His obnoxious one-issue campaign is an insult to those he seeks to convince.”
Political campaigns have never been welcoming of your mother’s maxim that “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” But Mark Udall, unable to conjure up even a mirage of an accomplishment during his Senate tenure, has offered nothing but what I called in July “a cynical, disgraceful scorched-earth campaign” to those of us who suffer daily through his television and radio ads as we watch Monday Night Football or listen to (shameless plug warning!) the Ross Kaminsky Show.
I do have one apology which I gladly offer in public: I suggested that “women should — but mostly won’t — react (to Udall’s comprehensively dishonest campaign) by asking Democrats, ‘Do you really think I’m that stupid?’”
In fact, it seems many (though still not enough) women have done just that, for which I commend them — and hope that they will encourage their friends to not allow Democrats to take them for granted.
An NBC/Marist poll released in July showed Sen. Udall leading by 12 points among women, roughly equal to his margin of victory among female voters when he first won election to the Senate in 2008 (and slightly less than the 15-point chasm by which Colorado women voted for Barack Obama over John McCain). In 2008, there was not a substantial opposite imbalance among men to offset the “gender gap,” leading to a 10-point win for Udall in a Democratic wave year.
But in the most recent poll in Colorado, released by Fox News just over a week ago, Udall only leads by 5 percentage points among women, 42 percent for the Democrat to 37 percent for Cory Gardner. The remarkable drop in support is due to a combination of Udall’s persistently negative, one-issue campaign along with substantial disapproval, even among women, of President Barack Obama with whom Sen. Udall has voted 99 percent of the time in the past year. In the Fox poll, Gardner leads Udall by 17 percent among men, explaining an overall lead of 6 percent for Gardner (only 6 percent because more women than men tend to vote in Colorado elections).
Also suggesting big trouble for Udall on the first Tuesday in November is the disparity in interest in the election between Democrats and Republicans, as well as between groups that traditionally support each: The least interest in the election is shown by Democrats, women, blacks and Hispanics, while Republicans, men, and whites have the highest percentages who report being “extremely interested.”
Independent voters — of whom there are more than either Republicans or Democrats in Colorado — have also shifted dramatically away from Mark Uterus. In July, Udall led Gardner by 16 points among unaffiliated voters. Today, that has completely reversed, with Gardner holding a 15-percentage point advantage though that group continues to have a large subset — over 35 percent — who have not committed to either the Republican or the Democrat. These people will decide the election, and perhaps which party controls the majority in the United States Senate. It is unlikely that Udall will earn even one third of their votes.
The impending disaster for Mark Udall, made more likely by the Denver Post’s giving permission to its many “moderate” readers to vote Republican (the endorsement happened after the Fox poll was taken), also bodes well for GOP gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez despite the Post having previously endorsed his Democratic opponent, incumbent Governor John Hickenlooper.
If it’s OK to vote for one Republican against whom the only arguments offered have been about birth control and abortion (while the Republican talks about energy, education, and the economy), then how can it not be OK at least to consider another Republican who has faced a nearly identical — and nearly identically negative — single-issue campaign?
Especially when even the Denver Post acknowledges that conservative “views on same-sex marriage are becoming irrelevant now that the Supreme Court has let appeals court rulings stand and gay marriage equality appears unstoppable. And contrary to Udall’s tedious refrain, Gardner’s election would pose no threat to abortion rights.”
The governor’s race is, according to recent polls, a dead heat. But, as with the Senate race, the Democrat had a substantial lead just three months ago. As they say in the world of financial markets, the trend is your friend.
There is a larger lesson in the Udall implosion: The “war on women” has worn thin as an election issue. When it comes to voters, Sandra Fluke has no truck. This is not to say that birth control hyperbole isn’t still effective with some, particularly apolitical young single women. But even they realize that there are important issues for politicians to deal with (today’s headlines being Ebola and ISIS) and that someone who earns the nickname “Mark Uterus” due to his single-minded focus on women’s reproductive parts is almost certainly not dealing with them.
Beyond that, Udall’s monotonous campaign is downright boring.
That’s why in other key Senate races polled by Fox, including Kansas, Arkansas, Alaska and Kentucky, while Democrats hold small single-digit leads among women, likely female voters, along with non-whites and registered Democrats, are much more interested in the election than they are in Colorado. (In each of these races, however, as in Colorado, men are more interested than women and, with the exception of Kentucky, Republicans are more interested than Democrats.)
In politics, three weeks feels like an eternity, and Republicans in close races should take nothing for granted. As Cory Gardner told me when I mentioned the Fox poll to him, “there’s still a lot of work to be done.” That, as well as anything, captures the spirit that caused even the Democrat-loving Denver Post to conclude that our government “needs fresh leadership, energy and ideas, and Cory Gardner can help provide them in the U.S. Senate.”
Combine Gardner’s positivity and energy with Mark Udall’s daily violation of Thumper’s father’s warning about speaking if you don’t have anything nice to say, and you have a blueprint for how Colorado can regain its freedom-loving Western spirit and the rest of the nation can push back against a Democratic Party that has so very little to offer and offers what little it has with a repugnant combination of tediousness, anger, and negativity.