Udall, Gardner Campaigns Begin to Lay Out Strategy

Rep. Cory Gardner

Rep. Cory Gardner

From FOX 31's Eli Stokols:

Now, Udall’s campaign is quickly shifting gears, going on offense and trying to define Gardner early in the race as someone whose conservative voting record is outside the mainstream — more conservative even than Ken Buck, one of the former GOP Senate hopefuls now planning to run for Gardner’s House seat.

“We’ve swapped one reckless Tea Partier for another,” said Udall’s campaign manager Adam Dunstone. “But unlike Ken Buck, Congressman Gardner will be held to account for the out-of-touch votes he cast in Congress. His voting record placed him in the top ten most conservative members of the House, while radicals like Rep. Tom Tancredo never cracked the top 50.”

That ranking is courtesy of National Journal, which ranked Gardner as the 10th most conservative member in the House based on his votes in 2012…

…[The Udall] campaign deeply believes that once voters in this rapidly changing state learn more about Gardner’s votes, they’ll find him similar to Buck, no matter how smooth a talker he may be.

We've said as much about Gardner in this space before. Once the newness of Gardner's campaign has passed, and both the media and voters turn more attention to Gardner's recent history, it's difficult to see how Cory can present himself as more moderate than Ken Buck. It's going to be even more difficult for Gardner than it would have been for Buck to run a strong "anti-incumbent" message when Gardner is a sitting member of Congress; there's a reason that the press releases sent out by Udall's campaign use "Congressman Cory Gardner" in the header image.

As for Gardner, he seem to be betting the farm that he can beat Udall by saying the word "Obamacare" repeatedly. Again, from FOX 31:

When asked about his record at his campaign kickoff event Saturday morning, Gardner offered a response that likely encapsulates his campaign strategy of focusing almost exclusively on Obamacare, which Udall supported.

Gardner can certainly get some traction by attacking Udall on Obamacare, but there's no way that will be enough to win this race in November (assuming Gardner gets through a Republican Primary). Gardner's low statewide name ID means that he must define himself as well as attack Udall — and he must do it before Udall does it for him (see above). As we saw in 2008, merely repeating the same thing over and over again (ie, "Boulder Liberal" Mark Udall) isn't a very sound strategy for winning a U.S. Senate seat.


13 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Moderatus says:

    Have you seen the polling on Obamacare? Gardner's right.

    • BlueCat says:

      Obamacare wasn't polling well in 2012 either yet Obama himself was reelected by a comfortable majority, the Dems held the Senate, gained seats in the House and here in Colorado 2012 left us with Dem majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. It may be all Gardner's got but that doesn't mean it's enough. 

  2. gertie97 says:

    It's not enough. Gardner needs more and he doesn't have it.


    • notaskinnycook says:

      This is a race to make a drinking game out of. Every time Gardner say the words "Boulder liberal" and "Obamacare" in the same sentence it's "bottoms up". Nah. We'd all be toasted in no time flat. 

  3. DawnPatrol says:

    Gardner's got great hair. Too bad there's only excrement beneath it.

    Just another one-note teabaggy loser. He cannot and will not win, using Obamacare for his sole punching bag or not.

  4. How long before the National Journal turns into a partisan liberal rag for promoting Gardner to their top 10 most conservative list (presumably in an attempt to highlight his rising star status)?

  5. langelomisterioso says:

    Yup Moddy- Gardner's so far right he's fallen off the edge of the rational planet right not meaning correct in this instance. "the polling"like there's only one and you couldn't even be bothered to quote from,cite,or link us all to whichever one you were talking about. Pretty weak.

  6. Sunmusing says:

    Any one else going to vote in the GOP primary??

  7. dwyer says:

    An interesting note from Gardner on Caplis's show: He said that he was going to campaign in Denver neighborhoods.  People in Denver identify by the neighborhood where they live; neighborhood is a good word to use when talking about Denver.  This suggests to me that someone on Gardner's staff is a knowledgeable enough about Denver to use the word.  Too bad, Gardner did not say he was going to go visit the "hood"

    There is no way that Gardner is going to gain a lot of votes in Denver.  But, for Democrats to win state-wide, they have to come out of Denver with a large margin.  Anything that reduces that margin, particularly in a close election, helps republican candidates.

  8. RavenDawg says:

    One thing you might have missed that fits with this–the coordinated media campaign, led by Denver Post.

    1. Last week included several front page news articles on Gardner's candidacy, repeatedly prefacing Gardner's name with "rising star." (Maybe a good tag line eh?)

    2. Then on Sunday we had

    (a) an op-ed by Dick Wadhams (Now there's a name I haven't heard for a lo-o-o-ng time) contrasting Gardner as "the face of a new generation of Repub leaders who will stand in stark contrast to the tired Democratic incumbent, Sen. Mark Udall;' vesus the Tancredo candidacy for governor as example of failed old guard Repub extremism.

    (b) the national-level op-ed by George Shill Will, showcasing Gardner as a having a solid conservative record but lacking the "serrated edge" and "maladroit campaigning" of the failed Ken Buck 2010 Senatorial campaign.  (Interestingly Will also refers to the "hidden–but inferable–hand of the national GOP to shuffle Colorao's political deck.")

    So it's obvious that there will be a coordinated effort to portray Gardner to uninformed voters as a new-age, kinder gentler tea-bagger (btw it is also clear that the big money will go to Senate race, not to challenge the sitting moderate Repub governor Hickenlooper.)  The equally obvious counter-strategy for Udall is to define the true hard-right Gardner before that narrative gets established.  But he can't sit back on his butt and wait for fact-based reporting or the objective commentariat to do it for him–he's got to get after it ASAP–similar to analysis I've read about Harry Reid beat Sharon Angel in Nevada in ~2010. 

    • BlueCat says:

      Kinder gentler lip service (and that would be a brand new development in itself) isn't the same as kinder gentler policy. Udall's team needs to showcase Gardner's extreme voting record, a record in no way kinder or gentler than any other clown car candidate's. 

      As for George Will, the last time he represented a sensible, intelligent and independent thinking conservative voice, whether one agreed with him or not, was decades ago. He's nothing but another rightie spin drone now. No need to cross out "shill". Perfectly accurate. Fortunately he's also almost always wrong on his predictions, mainly because he stubbornly refuses to advance as far as the 20th century, much less the 21st.

      • RavenDawg says:

        Looks to me like the natl Repub strategy for Colorado 2014 will focus on protecting Coffman v Romanoff, and going for vulnerability (perceived or real?) of Udall v Gardner.  The sleeper is CD-3; I haven't seen any cogent analysis of whether Dems have a shot there or not, but it could potentially be another opportunity to flip a Repub seat.

    • dwyer says:


      Are you aware of any national columnists who spoke favorably of Udall and/or

      Hickenlooper that the Post did not run?  I am not. 

      I was also glad to see that Waddams is still mad at Tancredo.  That might possibily help keep the repus off center in terms of the governor's race.  I was surprised that Beauprez got the most votes in the two precincts I heard reported.  I think the factions in the repub party are going to be most vocal in the governor's face.

      It also looked like Gardner is going to have a united republican party behind him, as I have heard no negative or opposing voices…except for Hill who said he would support the party's candidate.   

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