Until this year, Udall was known for his pro-environmental record, his skepticism about government snooping—and as a principled and appealing person. That reputation evaporated in the crucible of a campaign so infused with the reproductive rights argument that Udall earned the unflattering moniker “Mark Uterus.” 

As a prominent Denver Republican told me days before the election, “Democrats have squandered Udall’s tremendous personal and political strengths. … He is truly one of the nicest, most decent people in Colorado politics, yet he has come across as a dour, mean-spirited, tired old incumbent.”

For anyone who knows Udall personally, this was a sad commentary on the campaign. For those who remember Udall’s father, it almost beggars belief. A longtime Arizona congressman, Morris K. Udall was in some ways reminiscent of Barack Obama. Like the president, he was tall and bright and loved basketball, though he could be laconic when it served his purposes—and even when it didn’t.

But Mo Udall’s humor was directed at himself more often than at others, an art Barack Obama has never mastered. When Udall lost his 1976 presidential bid in the Democratic primary to Jimmy Carter, he reprised an old line: “The voters have spoken—the bastards.”