Cory Gardner, a freshman U.S. senator, is facing a tough re-election fight in 2020, just as then-Sen. Udall did in 2014. And there’s another parallel: Democrats, at least for now, believe abortion is a winning issue for them in 2020, just as Udall did five years ago…
Among many Democratic strategists, a new conventional wisdom has emerged about the 2014 race. Udall had the right idea, they say. Criticisms of Gardner on abortion will stick in 2020, even if they didn’t in 2014, they say.
“Here’s what’s changed: Trump’s election and the courts,” said Laura Chapin, a Democratic consultant who has advised NARAL and is now aiding Alice Madden’s campaign for Senate. “That has really supercharged this discussion because it’s not hypothetical anymore. They have a clear path, through the courts, to overturn Roe (vs. Wade).”
We wrote a couple of days ago about the recent dramatic escalation of national abortion politics following the passage of a near-total ban on abortion in Alabama, intended to serve as a vehicle to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision guaranteeing abortion rights in all fifty states. Although Colorado has consistently and overwhelmingly rejected attacks on abortion rights at the polls, the state’s stridently conservative Republican minority in the legislature proposes abortion bans similar to Alabama’s every year–a reminder that a political turn of fortune for Republicans in Colorado would result in a direct threat to abortion rights.
With the Trump administration’s Supreme Court appointees ready to do the once-unthinkable and the challenge that could prove to be Roe’s undoing passed into law in Alabama, the narrative that allowed Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado to “beat” the issue of abortion in 2014 and win his seat despite an avowedly anti-abortion record in a pro-choice state is rapidly disintegrating. The assurance voters were given in 2014 that regardless of Gardner’s “personal view” on abortion he would be unable to act against abortion rights didn’t survive Gardner’s votes in the Senate to confirm Supreme Court Justices who are ready to overturn Roe v. Wade, let alone his numerous votes to chip away at abortion rights in the Senate since winning his seat.
Now that the threat to abortion rights is no longer hypothetical, Gardner seems to be caught completely flat-footed:
Gardner’s office declined an interview request from The Denver Post this week. [Pols emphasis] Asked about Alabama’s restrictions on abortion by Politico, he told the news outlet that he is pro-life but hasn’t read the Alabama law. Abortion should be left up to the states, the senator said.
It’s been nearly a week since Gardner literally ran away from reporters asking about his view of the Alabama abortion ban. In a subsequent interview, Gardner reaffirmed his “personal” anti-abortion views, and said that abortion rights should be “up to the states”–tantamount to saying Roe v. Wade should be overturned, since the only way states could control the legality of abortion is in the absence of Roe’s federal guarantee.
Without the cover of public perception that Roe is invulnerable, which is most definitely a relic of the past today, Gardner’s long record of support for banning abortion sticks out like a sore thumb against the overwhelming consensus of the voters of the state he represents. It is no longer possible for Gardner to bluff his way to a draw on this issue. The more abortion becomes a marquee issue for the 2020 elections, which it was not in 2014 despite Democrats’ singleminded message, the dimmer Gardner’s re-election prospects get.