On Abortion, Gardner Can Run But He Can’t Hide

Cory Gardner, running from “Personhood” in 2014.

The Washington Post’s Juliet Eilperin and Michael Scherer put out an in-depth story yesterday that focuses on the changing politics of abortion with the U.S. Supreme Court shifting steadily rightward under President Donald Trump–a shift that could leave Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado dangerously exposed on the issue in 2020 after successfully talking his way out of trouble in 2014:

“We believe that the Kavanaugh vote is not going to be soon forgotten. It wasn’t just a moment in time,” said Brian Fallon, director of Demand Justice, which will launch a small digital ad campaign against Collins this week. The group also plans to hire field organizers in Maine and Colorado, swing states where Collins and Sen. Cory Gardner (R) are set to face voters in 2020…

Democrats plan to use the threat of court action to put Republicans in increasingly blue states on the defensive. Gardner, who voted for Kavanaugh and describes himself as “pro-life,” struggled with questions about abortion during his 2014 race, [Pols emphasis] when Democrats attacked him for having supported efforts to declare the fetus a person entitled to legal rights — a position that could outlaw abortion completely.

Gardner countered that his support amounted to a “statement” signaling his opposition to abortion, and said he wanted to increase access to contraception.

As we wrote last week in the wake of a narrow SCOTUS decision temporarily staving off a crisis over a Louisiana abortion restriction law, reproductive choice is an issue with a long and difficult political history in Colorado. Although our state has a demonstrated pro-choice majority of voters who have rejected abortion ban constitutional amendments repeatedly in recent years, Colorado’s anti-abortion political activists are very powerful within the Republican coalition–placing Republican candidates in the undesirable position of having to satisfy strident litmus tests on abortion in the GOP primary process, then trying to moderate that position enough to win a general election.

Cory Gardner, who had risen in Eastern Plains GOP politics by vocally supporting the “Personhood” abortion ban amendments, found a simple solution to this apparently contradiction: lying. After declaring to an obliging reporter that he no longer supported the local “Personhood” measures he had backed for years, Gardner insisted for the rest of the campaign that his continued support for federal legislation with the same language as “Personhood” was not what it plainly looked like–and managed to convince the press that the real problem was his opponent was overplaying the issue, not Gardner being deceptive at all! The success of this audacious strategy was proven when the Denver Post called Democrats’ attacks on Gardner over abortion a “tired refrain,” and asserted that “Gardner’s election would pose no threat to abortion rights.”

Safe to say, few events in local politics have aged as poorly as that endorsement. For Gardner and Colorado Republicans in general, the success for Republicans nationally that has shifted the Supreme Court toward their desired goal of overturning Roe v. Wade now risks turning abortion from a safe issue with which to mobilize the Republican base into a disastrous liability–one that forces all the consequences of their unpopular position on abortion into the spotlight. The very real threat of a nationwide rollback of abortion rights destroys the reasoning behind the Post’s downplaying of the threat Gardner personally represents, as well as the complacency of local journalists who have long blithely insisted that abortion isn’t an issue worth their time.

After literally defying reality in 2014, a perfect storm is brewing for Gardner just in time to face the voters again.

31 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. bullshit! says:

    Right after Roe is overturned in the Denver Post boardroom:

    via GIPHY

  2. DaftPunk says:

    Yo guvs,

    Steve Harvey was banned for "cracker." 

    "Bitches and sluts" to describe the one in three women who have an abortion is cool with you? Are there no standards here?

  3. Pseudonymous says:

    Pols needs to do a bunch more diaries on this, because, if the 2014 race against Gardner taught us anything, it's that it fell short because Udall's team utterly failed to make women's reproductive health a central issue of the campaign.

    • mamajama55 says:

      We're within a hair of seeing Roe v Wade overturned legally. Legal abortion is a right I marched for when I was a young teen, and it's been in place most of my life, even with the chipping away at it via the Hyde amendment, clinic restrictions, late-term abortion prohibitions, murders of doctors, and everything else. 

      So I'm OK with calling attention to Gardner's hypocrisy on this issue. Legal abortion is not women's defining issue any more than immigration is Latinx's defining issue. But it is a real dilemma that really affects real women's lives.

      As for the evangelical "base", if they finally get SCOTUS to reverse legal abortion, they'll finally achieve what they say they've wanted all these years. Then what?  They'll also have to own the increased teen pregnancies and deaths of women from DIY , desperate abortions. Evangelical and Catholic women abort pregnancies at the same rate as any other population, so the base's hypocrisy will get even more intense and shameful.

      I get your point about Udall over – emphasizing the abortion issue, but I don't think that's a mistake Gardner's 2020 opponent will repeat.  "Mark Uterus" was as much a creation of the right wing media as any reflection of actual politicking.

      Gardner’s own hypocrisy on this is glaring; he got elected promising that he wouldn’t work against legal abortion. He promoted Big Pharma’s interests by advocating for over the counter abortifacients like “Plan B”, and he has a wholly undeserved reputation as a “moderate”. Keep calling him out, Pols.

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