I suppose going straight for the war-on-women strategy is the first logical step for Sen. Mark Udall in his race against Rep. Cory Gardner in Colorado, expected to be one of the costliest of the cycle. What should he do, tout his vote for ObamaCare and the “if you like it, you can keep it” lie? Well, that’s definitely out. Talk about the effectiveness of Democrats’ policies in nurturing an economic “recovery“? Nope, that’s out too. Play up the fact that he’s voted with President Obama’s agenda 99 percent of the time? Oh, hell no.

So, time to start running with one of the two main strategies from embattled Democrats’ distraction playbook: Natural gas production is liable to become a big factor in this particular race, but for now, it was either minimum wage and income inequality, or unsubtly implying that Republicans’ opposition to abortion/support for personhood measures are really just elaborate fronts for eventually getting the pill outlawed and keeping women in the kitchen, or whatever.

Unfortunately, demonizing/distorting Ken Cuccinelli’s social conservatism seemed to work pretty well for now-Gov. Terry McAuliffe in similarly purplish Virginia, helping to turn out all the single ladies in his favor. Flashback to last November:

Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe spent most of his campaign time — and money — casting Ken Cuccinelli as a zealot on social issues like abortion and contraception in the just-concluded Virginia race. …

But, according to exit polls, Cuccinelli only lost female voters by nine points — identical to the losing margin for Mitt Romney among women in Virginia in the 2012 presidential election. (Romney lost women nationally by 11 points to President Obama in 2012.)

Where Cuccinelli did get swamped, however, was among non-married women where he lost by a massive 42-point(!) margin, according to preliminary exit polling. While Romney didn’t fare that poorly in 2012, his 29-point loss among non-married women in Virginia was more than double his losing margin among women more broadly in the Commonwealth.

Team Gardner is going to have to hustle to avoid getting defined as some kind of crazed social zealot early on, and the money from outside groups from both sides is already pouring in:

Gardner’s campaign responded quickly, attacking Udall for going negative and alleging that the ad distorts Gardner’s record.

“After nearly two decades in Washington, Senator Udall has decided to launch his reelection campaign with a negative, misleading attack ad because he has no record of accomplishments,” Gardner campaign manager Chris Hansen said in a statement. “While Coloradans sound the call for new leadership, Senator Udall continues to lie about Cory Gardner’s record while distorting his own.

“If Senator Udall trusts and respects women, and all Coloradans for that matter, then he should not have lied to them about keeping their healthcare plans and doctors.”