Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) has one strategy to ensure his reelection: Resurrect the morally and intellectually bankrupt “War on Women.”
This effort has centered primarily fon promoting the fact that Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO) once backed a personhood measure as a state-level lawmaker. He has since abandoned that position and embraced more politically savvy policies like those which would increase access to over-the-counter contraceptives. Even Politifact has been forced, reluctantly, to call out Udall’s ads which claim Gardner “championed” personhood measures in the Centennial State as “half true.”
Nevertheless, Udall’s campaign is clinging desperately to this line of attack against the surging Republican Senate nominee despite the fact that the theme has begun to yield diminishing returns for the incumbent, as The Hill observed in late September.
But, as Udall begins to collapse in the polls, his allies are pulling out all the stops. During a Tuesday debate between the two Senate hopefuls, moderator and Denver Post reporter Lynn Bartels noted that Udall has been dubbed “Mark Uterus” because he is “so focused on women’s issues.” Quite the adversarial relationship there.
The term was actually coined by a Colorado-based Republican and Udall adversary, but the Senate Democrat’s supporters have embraced it. “There are worse reputations in blue and purple states than being known for supporting women’s reproductive rights, especially when it distinguishes you from an opponent known for his support of personhood bills,” wrote Bloomberg’s credulous Arit John. “That stance has gained Udall top ratings from a range of groups, from the Planned Parenthood Action Fund to women’s magazines like Cosmopolitan.”
Some company. Planned Parenthood has notably rejected Republicans’ proposals to increase access to contraceptives because they do not believe that contraception should be provided at taxpayer expense. Cosmopolitan has only begun to endorse (exclusively liberal) candidates for office for the first time this year, as the prospects for Democrats and for Obama’s final two years in office appear increasingly dim.
Still, it is reasonable to expect that Udall’s strategy, one which proved such a boon to Democrats in 2012, would be effective with women on some level. The polls, however, suggest that it is backfiring; men have been alienated by Udall, and women are not backing the incumbent in the numbers he needs to secure reelection.
A mid-September Quinnipiac University poll which showed Gardner up by 8 points over Udall revealed a miniscule gender gap that likely terrifies the Udall camp. “In the three-way matchup, Gardner leads Udall among men 53 – 34 percent, with 9 percent for [Independent candidate Steve] Shogan,” Quinnipiac’s release read. “Women go 46 percent for Udall, 43 percent for Gardner and 7 percent for Shogan.”
A Fox News survey released on Wednesday found a similar gap. Among men, Gardner leads Udall with 50 to 33 percent support. Among women, however, Gardner trails Udall by just 37 to 42 percent.
A YouGov/CBS News/New York Times poll taken from September 20 to October 1 has been the most favorable for Udall in weeks. In that survey, Udall enjoys a 15-point lead over Gardner among women, while Gardner secures the support of just 10 points more male voters. However, even given this pronounced gender gap, Udall only leads Gardner in that survey with 45 to 42 percent of the overall vote.
If Udall’s women-first campaign were successful, the gender gap YouGov found would be observed across multiple surveys. The opposite is the case.
It seems that the nakedly dishonest and factional tactic of stoking fear among women voters is failing in Colorado. If Udall had something else to offer Centennial State voters, his campaign would be in less trouble than it presently is. It appears, however, that the “War on Women” was all Mark Udall ever had.
This post has been updated since its original publication.