Colorado GOP Senate Candidate Accuses Opponent of Using Abortion to ‘Distract’ Voters

Under attack by Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) for his hardline anti-abortion position, Republican senatorial candidate Rep. Cory Gardner said on a Denver radio show Saturday that Udall is “trying to distract the voters with issues that, quite frankly, aren’t top of mind for people.”

Gardner’s comment came in response to a question from KNUS 710-AM radio host Craig Silverman about Udall’s advertisements, which have blanketed Colorado TV stations, hammering Gardner for his long-standing efforts to ban abortion, even in cases of rape and incest, and to restrict access to contraception.

Asked by RH Reality Check about Gardner’s statement that abortion issues aren’t top of mind for people, Colorado College political science professor Robert D. Loevy said, “That’s more of a wish, or a campaign goal, than a statement of fact. If Udall and the Democrats can run enough ads, and they are dramatic enough—and the ones they’re running now are effective—if they succeed with that, then it’s an issue.”

“Political scientists refer to the adage, ‘The battle is about what the battle is about,’” Loevy continued. “What that means is candidates have to establish issues. If you can make the battle about your issue rather than the other person’s, you’ll win the election.”

“He’s trying to play down the abortion and contraception issue, because recent elections in Colorado have proven that those issues are losers for Republican candidates, most conspicuously when [Colorado Sen.] Michael Bennet used them against [Republican] Ken Buck in 2010. Cory Gardner would like to have this issue off the table.”

In his radio interview, Gardner said people in Colorado are worried about “their family’s economy, how they are going to afford to send kids off to college, how they are going to fill up with a tank of gas that’s almost $4 a gallon right now; those are the issues that the people of Colorado are worried about.”

“Gardner’s not wrong,” said Jennifer Duffy, an analyst with the Cook Political Report. “Pull up the Gallup issues, and you’ll see these [abortion] issues don’t resonate with the electorate as a whole. But they do appeal to the Democratic base and drop-off voters, especially women. Was there a better way to say it? Probably.”

Women are a key voting bloc in Colorado, and getting them to the polls in the upcoming midterm election is critical for Udall, Duffy said.

“Reproductive health care is a critical part of any woman’s economic future and affects her bottom line,” said NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado Executive Director Karen Middleton via email, when informed by RH Reality Check of Gardner’s radio comment. “Ninety-nine percent of American women have used birth control, and they know how much it costs. Cory Gardner still doesn’t get it about why these issues matter in a very real way to Colorado women and families.”

Seventy percent of Colorado’s registered voters are less likely to back candidates who want to restrict access to contraception, according to an NBC/Marist poll released Tuesday.

In Colorado, where the governor’s office and the state legislature are controlled by pro-choice Democrats, a bill banning nearly all abortion was defeated in March. Another state bill, allowing prosecutors to bring charges against people who harm an “unborn member of the species homo sapiens,” failed to make it through in February. Nationally, states have passed 21 laws so far this year restricting abortion.

Gardner’s statement reflects comments he made during his first congressional campaign in 2010, when he defeated Betsy Markey, a pro-choice Democrat trying to hold her seat in a Republican-leaning congressional district.

In response to Markey’s attacks on his hardline anti-abortion positions, including his support of Colorado’s failed “personhood” amendment in 2008, Gardner said at the time, “Right now the only person talking about social issues in this campaign is Betsy Markey.” He promised reporters not to pursue an anti-abortion agenda if elected to Congress.

After winning the election, however, Gardner co-sponsored bills to redefine rape, defund Planned Parenthood, and to define a “person” in the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to include all human development, beginning at the fertilized egg (zygote) stage.

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  • Plum Dumpling

    Reproductive rights, now that the Republican Party has the rape and breeder slavery of women written into their party platform, IS ALL I CARE ABOUT. I an now a one issue woman. I cannot be ‘distracted.’ Mess with Roe v. Wade and your electoral ass is mine.

  • melissia

    He’d love to define “people” as “men”.

  • Kuni Leml

    I don’t know what monkey god those who want to force Sharia Law on America worship, but EVERY Christian knows that God permits and condones abortions.

    Numbers 5 documents a Bronze Age abortion, where a woman is given a potion to induce a miscarriage if her husband thinks that the fetus is not his.

  • BelligerentBruncher

    If abortion is at the top of your concern list, you’re doing something wrong with your life.

    How many abortions do you expect to have in your life??

    • Tweetiebird57

      If reproductive rights isn’t at the top of your concern list, then you aren’t dealing with reality. No woman wants anyone else to make their decisions for them. Abortion, just like contraceptives, are private decisions that every woman has the right to make for herself without any outside interference, especially from any man.

    • Shan

      “If abortion is at the top of your concern list, you’re doing something wrong with your life.”

      And yet obviously you’re so concerned about abortion yourself, since you spend so much time here talking about it. What are you doing wrong with YOUR life?

      “How many abortions do you expect to have in your life??”

      The fact that you even ask that question is just another indication of how completely clueless you are.

    • Plum Dumpling

      Abortion is the #1 political issue for me. Mess with reproductive rights and your ass is mine. When rape is not in the Repub party agenda, other issues will become more important.

    • cjvg

      I see you still do NOT understand the word CHOICE!
      As in every human being has the right to make his or hers own life choices, and “gasp” we actually believe that women are real and actual people too.

      A shocking and very controversial opinion in your world, but for us who are educated and have the ability to read and comprehend science, fact, logic and reason not so much!

    • vulgarism

      One a month.

      • BelligerentBruncher
        • vulgarism

          I aim to please. I’m gansta.

          • Shan

            You must have SO many toaster ovens!

          • BelligerentBruncher

            You are gansta. Hey, when I read the new name i thought it was “vulva”ism. Too many lady parts on the brain. I need a vacation.

          • vulgarism

            Haha that would have been a good one actually.

    • goatini

      Any legislation that would render women to be second-class citizens IS at the top of my concern list. And I don’t appreciate those that don’t appreciate the gravity of this concern.

    • Ineedacoffee

      Its not just me, its my female neighbor, my best friend, sister, aunt, girl on the checkout
      The concern is for EVERY WOMAN

  • yooper1

    Republicans want to continue to pass political restrictions on access to and information about abortion and contraception while staying under the radar. Mark Udall is forcing this candidate to explain his record and he doesn’t like it. We will see if Colorado voters think this issue is important to them.