UPDATE: The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) calls Cory Gardner out:
“Why did it take Senator Gardner days to answer for this ‘horrifying’ ad that exploits a family’s unimaginable trauma for his own political gain?” said DSCC spokesperson Helen Kalla. “His cowardly claim that he doesn’t have the ‘power’ to remove this ad is a weak excuse for not responding to the survivor’s call for days and is another example of how Gardner has failed to do what’s right.”
As Politico’s James Arkin reports, after days of outrage over an ad from the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) invoking the tragic 2017 explosion of a home in Firestone caused by negligence by an oil and gas driller in a front-to-back false attack on Democratic U.S. Senate candidate John Hickenlooper, former NRSC chairman Sen. Cory Gardner is, we’re being asked to believe with a straight face, joining the call for the ad to be taken off the air:
Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) — in a rare break with his own party’s campaign arm — is calling on the National Republican Senatorial Committee to pull a controversial television ad that attacks his Democratic opponent, former Gov. John Hickenlooper.
The ad criticizes Hickenlooper over a deadly gas explosion in the state in 2017. After the spot began airing last week, Erin Martinez, whose husband and brother died in the explosion, called it “horrifying” and said it disgraced her family members’ legacy. Hickenlooper and Democrats in the state echoed her calls for it to be taken down…
“While I am glad that Sen. Gardner has finally realized the ad should be taken down, I am sorry that it has taken him and his staff more than four days to respond to my phone call and request for some relief for my family,” Martinez said in [an] emailed statement. “Our family’s trauma should not be the subject of a horrible political ad. We have worked very hard to create a positive legacy for my husband Mark and my brother Joey to ensure no one relives our nightmare.
“Sen. Gardner underestimates his power to have the ad taken down if he publicly speaks forcefully to make it happen,” Martinez added. “After talking to him, I wonder if he really understands the harm the ad has inflicted.”
If you get the impression from this statement that Erin Martinez doesn’t buy immediate past NRSC chairman Gardner’s belated assurances he “would not have run this ad” and that “If I had the power to take down the ad, I would,” as the Colorado Springs Gazette’s Ernest Luning reports, there’s a good reason–the NRSC says that they have declined their own candidate’s request, too.
But a spokeswoman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee said the group was standing by the ad that Erin Martinez, whose husband and brother were killed in the 2017 explosion in Firestone, last week called “horrifying” and Tuesday night said was exploiting her family’s trauma for political gain…
Legally, Gardner doesn’t have any control over spending by the NRSC’s independent-expenditure arm, which is spending millions to attack Hickenlooper in the pivotal Senate contest.
NRSC spokeswoman Joanna Rodriguez told Colorado Politics that the group stands by the statement she issued last week when demands to pull the ad first surfaced. [Pols emphasis]
While it may be true that Gardner doesn’t have any “legal control” over the NRSC, the idea that if Gardner really wanted this ad pulled he could not prevail on the NRSC to do so is preposterous on its face. This is the most vulnerable Republican Senate seat up for election in 2020, and it’s just absurd to pretend that this ad, or for that matter any ad would continue to run over the objections of the candidate it is intended to benefit.
So what’s really going on? Simple: this is Gardner attempting, through a totally contrived “conflict” with his own campaign arm, to validate the 2014 campaign pledge which has come back to bite him over and over since Donald Trump became President: “when my party is wrong, I’ll say it.”
But there’s a wrinkle with this kind of triangulation: it needs to be minimally believable in order to work. Gardner asking his own campaign arm to take an ad down with public fanfare is an obvious pretense. The NRSC declining to do so makes Gardner look weak. And the straightforward conclusion that this is all part of a strategy to fake nonexistent “independence” instead of meaningfully respond to a victim of a local tragedy is…
Well, it’s appalling. It’s an insult piled on the original offense. And it proves again that Gardner’s contempt for the intelligence of Colorado voters runs very, very deep.