Gardner’s Debate Disaster, Part 1: Cory’s Health Plan

The Denver Post has posted video clips of a number of key exchanges from last night's pivotal U.S. Senate race debate between Mark Udall and Cory Gardner. We certainly encourage readers to watch the debate in its entirety, but these clips zero in on the most impactful moments–almost all of them major breakdowns for Gardner's central campaign messages. We'll be talking about these clips a lot in the coming days:

Our first clip is of Gardner's refusal last night to divulge details of the health insurance plan he claims was cancelled due to the Affordable Care Act, and for which an "equivalent" replacement was supposedly much higher cost. As we've covered in detail in this space, Gardner's claims are impossible to substantiate based on the experience of others buying insurance from the Colorado health insurance marketplace. FOX 31's Eli Stokols tried valiantly to get the details on Gardner's insurance plan, and was stonewalled in response. Last night, the Denver Post's political news editor Chuck Plunkett pressed Gardner for these same details, and got similar evasive talking points in reply. We're actually quite surprised to see that in the week between Gardner's disastrous interview with Stokols and last night's debate, Gardner didn't come up with some kind of better answer to this very basic question–a question central to Gardner's campaign, as he regularly claims that his experience with Obamacare is what motivated him to run for the U.S. Senate.

Last night, after listening to Gardner recite his boilerplate against Obamacare, Plunkett tried to get back to the question he had originally posed:

CHUCK PLUNKETT: Mr. Gardner, could we take just a few more seconds, and, and we wanted to try to get a specific answer to the question…

(Audience laughter, applause)

PLUNKETT: Why did you redact the portion of the specific plan your family was using?

CORY GARDNER: Because we found a solution, an insurance policy that we liked. That our family liked. The same kind of solution that 340,000 other Coloradans found. 340,000 Coloradans found a health insurance policy that they liked. What Senator Udall promised, is that if you liked your health care plan, you could keep it. He did not say–and what Senator Udall wants to do is to say is this. He wants to say that well, your policy didn't do this, or your policy didn't do that…

PLUNKETT: Mr. Gardner, I'm sorry, we, if you would like to answer the specific question, we have a few more times, a little bit more time…

GARDNER: Well I'm happy to debate the failure of Obamacare, this entire hour if Senator Udall would agree. 

MARK UDALL: Congressman, I think you ought to… (gestures)

GARDNER: Okay, let's do it, if you want to debate…

PLUNKETT: No no, no no but we've got all these question we want to ask, so…

LYNN BARTELS: Cory, hold off.

UDALL: If I might, Chuck I'd like to get a word in here, the Congressman hasn't…

GARDNER: Am I allowed a rebuttal, if he's allowed a rebuttal to this question….

UDALL: The Congressman hasn't answered this question, as you know, and I think he should answer…

BARTELS: Rebut at him, we're trying to get you to answer a specific question. [Pols emphasis]

GARDNER: Well then I'm allowed to rebut.

PLUNKETT: Wait a second, let's get control of the situation here. Every now and then, I will want, or Lynn will want, we'll look at each other and confer to ask a follow-up question if we think a question was answered. That's our prerogative. Sometimes if a candidate doesn't answer a question, that also tells you something about the candidate that voters can know. [Pols emphasis] But right now we're going to move on to…

(Audience laughter)

GARDNER: Now Chuck, I would like to address what you just said.

PLUNKETT: That's not applicable to just you, Mr. Gardner, that would apply to any candidate that doesn't specifically answer a question.

By the end, it was painfully obvious why Gardner won't divulge the details of his pre-Obamacare insurance plan. It's because something in those details would severely undermine the claims he has made. At this point, Gardner has taken almost as much damage from refusing to release these details than he would if he simply admitted he's not being honest–but for obvious reasons, Cory Gardner can't do that. The only thing Gardner can do now is fall back on old talking points, like the highly misleading one about 340,000 Coloradans who "had their health plans cancelled"–debunked by the fact that the rate of uninsured in Colorado has plummeted since Obamacare took effect. The truth is, most of the claims being made about Obamacare today have been debunked by health insurance consumers' own experiences, and simple arithmetic showing the number of uninsured has shrunk not grown.

For anyone who knows even part of the story–a growing number of voters, but especially political insiders in Washington following these races down the stretch–Gardner's credibility is totally destroyed by this exchange. Its damage can only be limited by limiting the number of voters who see it. And if Democrats are on their game, they'll spread this clip far and wide over the next three weeks.

29 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Urban Snowshoer says:

    Colorado Pols wrote: By the end, it was painfully obvious why Gardner won't divulge the details of his pre-Obamacare insurance plan. It's because something in those details would severely undermine the claims he has made.

    This assumes he actually has a concrete plan in place. His plan might just consist of  clicking his heels and repeating "There's no place like the free-market, there's no place like the free market…" and so forth.  


  2. Miss Jane says:

    That didn't go well for Mr. Gardner.  I wonder if Mr. Plunkett needed a Pepcid

  3. Windsor_scott says:

    Remember when Romney said he paid his share of taxes, but would not provide proof?  Corey is now in the same situation.  He is the one who brought up that he lost his amazing healthcare plan. If it was so good show us proof!

    He loves to point out what he considers "lies", but will never admit that he is caught in a whopper.    These Christian candidates focus on gays or abortion as something they have a moral issue with, but won't bat an eye about their own lying.  Good bye Corey, this performance is just one more reason you will be gone soon.  

  4. Moderatus says:

    As usual, Pols, you are completely missing Gardner's point. The point is not some apples to oranges comparison of plans. The point is that Gardner had a plan that worked for his family. He liked his plan. Udall promised us all that if we liked our plan we could keep it. As Gardner's experience shows, that was a lie.

    The point is that Gardner had insurance he liked and it was taken away, like it was from over three hundred thousand Coloradans. It doesn't matter that they were able to get more expensive inferior coverage from Obamacare. They lost the plans they liked. Udall lied. That's all that matters.

    • denverco says:

      That is not all that matters. Just like in romney's case – produce them documentation – prove your point or STFU. gardener comes off as the liar because all he does is wave a piece of paper but won't let anyone read the document to prove his point – what is he afraid of? Don't he lie about the content? this will hurt him as badly as it hurt romney.

    • itlduso says:

      Oh, and BENGHAZI!

    • Gilpin Guy says:

      Oh bullshit

      The ultimate goal is more affordable health care for more people and you whining about some small percentage not being allowed to keep sub-standard policies is just another fart in the wind.  If it is such an outrage than why won't Gardner devulge the details of his sub-standard plan.  The uninsured rate went from something like 17% to 11%.  That's progress asshole and those are the only facts that counts in this debate.  The cost curve has bent and more people are receiving health care coverage.  Nobody is going back to sub-standard policies where insurance companies can deny coverage for a pre-existing condition.

      It sucks to be you, you sorry excuse for a compassionate conservativfe.

    • DawnPatrol says:

      Once more, you are pathetic beyond words, and the RANKEST of hypocrites.

      Tell us — for whose benefit do you post this swill? It's clearly not for us; we simply debunk every lie you tell, degrading and humiliating you endlessly in the process.

      So, who is it for? Some hapless dimwit passing by who might be too stupid to see through your (and your mentally ill party's) laughable spin and endless web of lies, deceptions and distortions?

    • skeptical citizen says:

      Cory seems to be a nice guy, but he is dishonest, and cannot be trusted

    • Gilpin Guy says:

      I wouldn't be surprised at all if the reason Gardner isn't divulging an of the details of his canceled health care plan is because he bought the absolute cheapest, nothing's covered so he use it as a prop in his campaign.  This is like the Niger Uranium forgery where those with the most to gain from the deception are the most vocal about the veracity of the information.  Me thinks he doth protest too much.  And he has no idea how to produce an equivalent plan that fits his ideological profile.  Clueless and deceiving.  Not the American Way or a proven formula for being a top performer in public service.  Colorado can doa lot  better than deceptively, deceiving Gardner.

    • BlueCat says:

      No. You are missing the point. He made specific claims including the fairly ridiculous one about the under $700 figure they were supposedly paying for  much better coverage for the family (try getting wonderful coverage for one person for that figure) than the coverage they had to switch to for twice as much. Complete with waving papers around as if to say "here's the evidence" quickly followed by "but you can't look." 

      He's the one that made those specific and highly questionable claims so, yes, we have the right to ask him to back those specific claims up. If he had just said they liked their old coverage and were unhappy about changing, you'd have a point. But he didn't and you don't. 

  5. Big Time says:

    The issue is no longer personhood or women's healthcare or Gardener's healthcare – it's Con Man Cory's integrity. He is flat out lying to Coloradoan's faces – not Udall, not to reporters, but to Coloradoans – all the while with a perma-grin and shiny metallic suit like some sleazy salesman. Repeatedly lying about his health plan, about his position on contraception and abortion. Call him a lying con man, in so many words. He had a chance to prove otherwise but thinks he can lie his way into office. How insulting to Colorado voters who deserve to know exactly what they are voting for. 

    • DawnPatrol says:

      That's precisely the pivot the Udall camp is attempting to make: If Con Man Gardner is not only so incredibly extreme on women's health issues but also willing to lie about it shamelessly in the process, how can you possibly trust this extreme right-wingnut teabagger on ANY issue? In fact, I'd be surprised if we didn't start seeing pro-Udall ads momentarily, explicitly making that case.

  6. DaninDen says:

    East coast pundits ( Murdock Kennel) "Speaking of debates, I watched one between Colorado Democratic Sen. Mark Udall and challenger Cory Gardner, in which it would not be hyperbole to say Gardner wiped the floor with the incumbent." (John Podhortz)

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