An excellent story from the Wall Street Journal's Beth Reinhard today explains in depth to a national audience the ongoing problem faced by GOP U.S. Senate candidate Cory Gardner we've been talking about for months–his halfway flip-flop away from longstanding prior support for the "Personhood" abortion ban initiatives that have failed repeatedly on the Colorado statewide ballot. In addition, Gardner faces growing questions about his continued sponsorship of the federal Life at Conception Act, which contains matching language from the Personhood abortion bans that would also outlaw common forms of birth control. Today's WSJ story is behind a paywall, so here's a teaser–go subscribe, or find a friend with a subscription to read the whole thing:
Rep. Cory Gardner, the Republican candidate for a Senate seat in Colorado, is trying to move away from the thorny issue of "personhood."
His problem is that neither his foes on the left nor some friends on the right will let him.
Shortly after entering the race against Democratic Sen. Mark Udall in February, Mr. Gardner disavowed his past support for the idea at the heart of the personhood movement, which is to give a fertilized egg the same rights as a person, thereby outlawing abortion and some forms of birth control. In backing away, he even called for the sale of birth control over the counter…
"Cory Gardner is a big disappointment, since he was firmly on our side, and now he's throwing that away for greater political aspirations," said Jennifer Mason, a spokeswoman for Personhood USA, the lead sponsor of the ballot question. [Pols emphasis]
Mr. Gardner has said he changed his mind because Colorado voters twice rejected constitutional amendments on the issue, in 2008 and 2010. He also said he hadn't realized that access to birth control could have been affected. Mr. Gardner is listed as a co-sponsor of a House bill that says life begins at conception.
As we discussed last Wednesday, Gardner's continued sponsorship of the federal Life at Conception Act, while claiming to have disavowed Colorado's Personhood abortion bans, creates a major conflict. Both the Personhood abortion ban amendments and the Life at Conception Act contain the same language about human life beginning "at the moment of fertilization." This language is what would have the consequence, either intended or not, of outlawing so-called "abortifacient" forms of birth control. Denver Post reporter Mark Matthews asked Gardner's campaign about this apparent contradiction, and was told by Gardner spokesman Alex Siciliano that the federal abortion ban bill would make "no change to contraception laws as Senator Udall falsely alleges."
But that's not true. It's the same language. At some point, this false distinction is going to burn Gardner's campaign yet again.
In the meantime, as the WSJ makes clear, Gardner still has a big problem. Even the most GOP-friendly polling in this race shows that this issue has already given Gardner's opponent Sen. Mark Udall a commanding lead with women voters. On the other side, the pro-life right wing is equally upset with Gardner's "pandering" to the left by backing off of what was previously a no-compromise stand against abortion under any circumstances.
Bottom line: there's a very simple reason why Gardner and his campaign affects exasperation with having to answer questions about banning abortion over and over, wondering aloud why reporters can't come up with "something else to talk about."
Like Ken Buck before him, this could be the issue that sinks Cory Gardner.