What can Cory Gardner teach Republicans about responding to the “war on women?”
First, your principal message must prevail. The Republican Party should not chase every birth control rabbit Democrats release. We know they’ll do it, so we should be prepared to respond. Gardner clearly anticipated that Udall would make “reproductive rights” his clarion call, and the Republican congressman wasn’t going to panic over it. Instead, Gardner glides from one attack on Udall’s record to the next, never ceasing to pair the Democrat incumbent with President Obama. Udall’s fallacious accusations, misrepresentation of his record, or mischaracterization of his beliefs don’t shake Gardner. Instead, he redirects the debate to meatier issues, such as the economy and health care, without getting “in the weeds” on less pressing matters, like whether Julia’s birth-control pills should fall from the sky like Skittles.
Second, no matter your policy solution for dealing with controversial issues such as these, it’s important to have one. Gardner does not have to explain away his pro-life principles at every turn because he has something else he’s for—something that is tremendously popular and that his opponent inexplicably opposes. During the time he would otherwise be forced to fill with defending his conservative values, Gardner can instead talk on his own terms. And that’s always a good thing.
Next, message discipline matters.