For months, Senate candidate Cory Gardner has been attacked as an extremist on the issues of abortion and Obamacare's contraception mandate. His response has been to disavow his support for a 2010 personhood amendment in Colorado and to support over-the-counter access to birth control. But a few Colorado social conservatives believe that the Republican congressman is missing an opportunity to push back against the real extremism of his Democratic opponent, incumbent senator Mark Udall.
“I live in Colorado. If you see (Udall’s) ads, you would think he’s a moderate,” former Colorado Marilyn Musgrave, now a vice president of government affairs at the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, said in an interview. “He needs to be exposed for how his extreme he is.”
While Gardner's response to the attacks has been defensive, outsiders are now trying to take the fight to Udall. The group Colorado Women Speak Out recently released two 60-second ads (here and here) that hammer the Colorado Democrat for his opposition to any legal protections for the unborn. “Whether you are pro-life or pro-choice, most Coloradans believe there should be some limits on abortion. Not Mark Udall. Udall believes there should be no limits, not even for painful, later-term abortions,” a female narrator says plainly in one commercial.
The ads are the work of Women Speak Out, a super PAC affiliated with the Susan B. Anthony List. Its leaders now hope to reach a wider audience with its message about Udall. Last week, the organization held a rally on the western steps of the state capitol in Denver to highlight Udall’s position on the Pain Capable Unborn Child-Protection Act, which would prohibit abortion after 20 weeks except in cases of rape, incest, and threats to maternal life and health.
Polls consistently show that voters overwhelmingly support the legislation: A Washington Post/ABC survey found that Americans support the measure by 36-point margin (64 percent to 28 percent). Udall has not tipped his hand about the legislation, but he opposed a similar bill in December 2006 and voted against the federal partial-birth abortion ban.
Like his father, the late Representative “Mo” Udall of Arizona who ran for president in 1976, Mark Udall has made a political career out of balancing the interests of liberals and moderates in his party. But Udall’s re-election campaign has given no quarter to moderates on cultural issues. With data from pollster Celinda Lake and the Voter Participation Center showing he needs to motivate single-female voters to turn out, Udall has made his support for abortion rights and taxpayer-financed coverage of birth control front and center.
Udall’s first ad in the campaign, which aired ten days after Gardner won the party’s nomination for the Senate, depicted Gardner as indifferent if not hostile to women’s interests. “It comes down to respect for women and our lives, so Congressman Gardner’s support for harsh anti-abortion laws is disturbing,” a female narrator says icily. In August, Udall’s campaign released a 30-second ad that accused Gardner of sponsoring legislation that would ban abortion even in cases of rape and incest. “Gardner is sponsoring a bill that would ban all abortions right now,” a male narrator says in a tone of incredulity.
The charge is demagogic. In fact, the bill that Gardner supported, the Life at Conception Act by Congressman Jim Jordan of Ohio, is purely nominative; it would define the unborn as persons under the 14th Amendment but give Congress the authority to enforce laws protecting them.