Desperation, thy name is Colorado's Mark Udall

Save for one New York Times/CBS online poll, which was savaged by The American Association for Public Opinion Research for demonstrating “little grounding in theory,” incumbent Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) cannot point to much evidence to suggest that he’s going to have a good year at the polls. That survey was the only since March to find the incumbent senator cresting 50 percent support while maintaining a 4-point lead over his challenger, Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO).

The majority of the polling in the race Colorado’s U.S. Senate seat is not promising for the Udall camp. Outside of July 7 – 10 NBC News/Marist survey which found Udall leading Gardner by 7 points, almost every 2014 survey has shown Udall and Garner statistically tied with none indicating the incumbent has the support of a majority of Colorado voters.

But the public opinion surveys are only one metric that indicates that this race is competitive. Another is the incumbent’s behavior, and Udall’s camp is sending the signals that this race is too close for comfort.

This pattern of behavior is best exemplified in this latest ad which resurrects 2012’s War on Women with all the grace and prudence of Dr. Victor Frankenstein.

The themes in this spot are as familiar as they are ham-fisted; Gardner wants to make abortion a felony in all cases, opposes any form of contraception, and plans to force women to wear Burkas. Okay, even that last claim was too much for Udall’s ad-makers to embrace… but I doubt his team has ruled it out.

The ad “Backwards” is a near mirror image of another spot the Udall campaign ran against Gardner in April. You will recognize the themes and the nearly identical script of “Backwards” in this ad, “Respect.”

Politifact took on the claims in this ad and judged many of them to be misleading. While Gardner once supported personhood measures as a state representative, measures which were resoundingly rejected by Colorado voters in 2008 and 2010, he has since renounced that position.

In a further complication, Gardner recently made a major about-face, saying he no longer supports the personhood movement, partly because he now thinks it could potentially impact access to certain forms of birth control.

“The fact that it restricts contraception, it was not the right position,” Gardner told The Denver Post. “I’ve learned to listen. I don’t get everything right the first time.”

Gardner’s campaign notes that in 2007, he was one of five to cosponsor an anti-abortion measure in Colorado that specified that “nothing in this section shall prohibit the sale, use, prescription or administration of a contraceptive measure, device, drug or chemical.” This bill, his campaign said, demonstrates that while Gardner is pro-life, he is not anti-contraceptive.

Politifact still found it in their hearts to rate Udall’s ad “half true,” but even that is a dubious rating given the representative’s statements.

The polls suggest this race is close with the incumbent maintaining a slight edge, but Udall’s desperate ads indicate that it the race for Senate in Colorado may be closer than even the polls indicate.

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