The Republican Party’s path to a Senate majority this year lies mostly in a handful of red, largely Southern states. But no Senate race in 2014 is poised to say more about the GOP’s future — in 2016 and beyond — than the one in Colorado.
The Centennial State arrived late on the midterm map, becoming a marquee contest only after Rep. Cory Gardner, who last year publicly passed on a campaign, reversed himself and entered the race against Democratic Sen. Mark Udall. And as a pickup opportunity for Republicans, it still ranks below prime targets like South Dakota, West Virginia, Arkansas, and Louisiana.
But claiming victory in a conservative state like Arkansas requires the GOP to perform well with the kind of white, working-class voters who already overwhelmingly lean right. Colorado is different; if Gardner wants to win there, he’ll have to assemble a more diverse coalition of supporters — the type of racially diverse, well-educated voters the party’s next presidential nominee will need to win the White House in 2016.
It’s a challenge few Republican candidates have met of late, either at the presidential level or in Senate races. With the exception of 2010, no GOP Senate candidate had defeated a Democratic candidate in a blue state — either against an incumbent or in an open-seat battle — since Mel Martinez’s 2004 victory in Florida. Then came the last midterm races. That year, three Republicans won on traditionally Democratic turf — Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania, Ron Johnson in Wisconsin, and Mark Kirk in Illinois.
Party strategists are confident this midterm year will look a lot like the last one, the kind of wave that would carry a candidate like Gardner to victory. But in 2010 Republicans failed to win against Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet because their nominee — a local district attorney named Ken Buck — held an array of extreme positions on social issues. In a debate, for instance, he compared being gay to alcoholism.
What makes Gardner’s candidacy intriguing, and why Colorado is such a good test case for future races, is his apparent determination not to fall into the same trap. Shortly after announcing his candidacy, Gardner renounced his support for “personhood” legislation, which would grant fertilized eggs the same legal protections as people. The congressman said he did so because he came to realize that such a law would also ban some types of contraception.
Democrats deride Gardner’s switch as one born not of conviction but political opportunism; regardless, there’s little doubt that opposing such a measure is helpful in the state: Colorado voters overwhelmingly rejected a ballot initiative on personhood in 2010.
“Ken Buck had the lead going into October, and he ended up losing because he said some things that made him unacceptable to enough Republican and unaffiliated women in the suburbs that they voted for Senator Bennet,” said Dick Wadhams, a GOP strategist in Colorado.
Social issues, especially abortion rights and access to contraception, have been a major part of the Democratic playbook in blue states, and by and large the tactic has been effective. Udall’s campaign has made clear in the early going that it will continue to pound Gardner’s position on personhood legislation even after his reversal.
“Congressman Gardner’s efforts to hide his real agenda from Coloradans is affirmation of what we’ve been saying all along, that he doesn’t share mainstream Colorado values,” said Chris Harris, spokesman for the campaign. “Voters will see that he’s not who he says he is.”
Gardner’s campaign, for its part, is focusing on issues like the economy and Obamacare. Lately it’s also pushed Udall on whether he backs a possible statewide measure to ban the drilling process known as fracking, a measure that puts the senator between his liberal base and mainstream voters.
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Foreign Policy takes a look at the future of mining the estimated "100,000 near-Earth objects—including asteroids and comets—in the neighborhood of our planet. Some of these NEOs, as they’re called, are small. Others are substantial and potentially packed full of water and various important minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and iron. One day, advocates believe, those objects will be tapped by variations on the equipment used in the coal mines of Kentucky or in the diamond mines of Africa. And for immense gain: According to industry experts, the contents of a single asteroid could be worth trillions of dollars." But the technology to get us there is only the first step. Experts say "a multinational body might emerge" to manage rights to NEOs, as well as a body of law, including an international court.
Not to be outdone by Jeffrey Goldberg's recent piece in The Atlantic about President Obama's foreign policy, the New York Times Magazine checks in with a longread on the president's economic legacy. In it, Obama is cognizant that the economic reality--73 straight months of growth--isn't matched by public perceptions. Some of that, he says, is due to a constant drumbeat from the right that "that denies any progress." But he also accepts some blame himself. “I mean, the truth of the matter is that if we had been able to more effectively communicate all the steps we had taken to the swing voter,” he said, “then we might have maintained a majority in the House or the Senate.”
Ronald Reagan's children and political allies took to the media and Twitter this week to chide funnyman Will Ferrell for his plans to play a dementia-addled Reagan in his second term in a new comedy entitled Reagan. In an open letter, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis tells Ferrell, who's also a producer on the movie, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have—I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.” Michael Reagan, the president's son, tweeted, "What an Outrag....Alzheimers is not joke...It kills..You should be ashamed all of you." And former Rep. Joe Walsh called it an example of "Hollywood taking a shot at conservatives again."
In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-expected primary battle behind her, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) is no longer going on the air in upcoming primary states. “Team Clinton hasn’t spent a single cent in … California, Indiana, Kentucky, Oregon and West Virginia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “campaign has spent a little more than $1 million in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone backer in the Senate, said the candidate should end his presidential campaign if he’s losing to Hillary Clinton after the primary season concludes in June, breaking sharply with the candidate who is vowing to take his insurgent bid to the party convention in Philadelphia.”
The team behind the bestselling "Clinton Cash"—author Peter Schweizer and Breitbart's Stephen Bannon—is turning the book into a movie that will have its U.S. premiere just before the Democratic National Convention this summer. The film will get its global debut "next month in Cannes, France, during the Cannes Film Festival. (The movie is not a part of the festival, but will be shown at a screening arranged for distributors)." Bloomberg has a trailer up, pointing out that it's "less Ken Burns than Jerry Bruckheimer, featuring blood-drenched money, radical madrassas, and ominous footage of the Clintons."