Since his entry into the U.S. Senate race in late February, a defining characteristic of Rep. Cory Gardner's campaign strategy has been the swift and unapologetic abandonment of a number of stridently conservative policy positions. The most widely publicized example of this has been Gardner's flip-flop on the Personhood abortion bans, for which Gardner's former support was public and longstanding. Within a few weeks, Gardner had also flipped on such hot-button social issues as LGBT parent adoption, and whether undocumented immigrants should be deported to their countries of origin.
It's been a wild ride for Gardner in a short period of time, and the wisdom of simply jettisoning en masse all of Gardner's political stands which are now liabilities in a statewide election is a major point of debate today. Should Gardner prevail against Democratic Sen. Mark Udall this November, it would set a new precedent for the ability of a politician to reinvent their image to a truly sweeping degree and still win an election.
But if Gardner's "flip-flop early and hard" strategy doesn't work, there is a Republican who would be proven right.
That would be Cory Gardner.
This is a clip of Gardner speaking in August of 2013, less than a year ago, before the National Asian Indian Republican Association. In this clip, Gardner argues strongly that Republicans cannot "change what you believe in order to win." Transcript:
GARDNER: How many of you know Arthur Brooks at AEI, the American Enterprise Institute? I encourage you to look at some of the work that he's doing. Because he talks about what happened in 2012, he talks about how we as Republicans and conservatives can make sure that our message resonates with the American people.
There are some out there, who are paid consultants and pollsters, who would say, "You know what, you need to change your positions. You need to change your philosophies. You need to change what you believe in order to win." We don't need to that. We shouldn't do it. We cannot do that. [Pols emphasis] But what we have to do is make sure we deliver that message in a way that appeals to the American people.
Well, sometime between last August and March of this year, Gardner evidently figured it out: the only way to deliver a "message" that "appeals to the American people" is to "change what you believe in!" In fact, if Gardner's current story is to be believed, at the time he gave this very speech in late summer 2013, he had already begun to backpedal on the Personhood abortion bans. Of course, that doesn't seem likely either, since Gardner is today still a co-sponsor of the federal Life at Conception Act–Personhood's federal doppelganger.
To be honest, maybe the answer here is that there is no good answer. Once you've planted your flag on the wrong side of an issue, maybe the only thing to do is to own that bad decision. And if it costs you your political career, so be it, because issues actually mean things to people. It may be that flip-flopping, and as a result being trusted by neither side, is worse than sticking with unpopular principles you were elected on. In the endless parlor game of today's politics, where anything can be and is routinely spun out of all recognition, such fundamentals get lost.
But Gardner can't escape the truth: especially when it came out of his own mouth.