SPOTLIGHT

Rocky Mountain Retreat

Cory Gardner (R-CO) (R) celebrates after he luckily drew number one during an office selection lottery for new House members November 19, 2010 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.
National Journal
Josh Kraushaar
March 25, 2014, 7:45 a.m.

Col­or­ado Sen­ate can­did­ate Cory Gard­ner‘s (R) de­cision to back­track from his past sup­port for a per­son­hood amend­ment ““ out­law­ing abor­tion and po­ten­tially re­strict­ing forms of con­tra­cep­tion — was a telling mo­ment in the battle for the Sen­ate. It’s a sign that Re­pub­lic­ans are be­com­ing more cog­niz­ant about the need to ap­peal to wo­men and more so­cially-mod­er­ate voters. But it’s also a sig­nal that Re­pub­lic­ans re­cog­nize the gender gap re­mains a ser­i­ous prob­lem.

— Gard­ner’s state­ment ex­plain­ing his changed views was strik­ing in its forth­right­ness: “I’ve learned to listen. I don’t get everything right the first time,” he said. But it’s also the polit­ic­ally ex­pedi­ent thing to do. The gender gap in Col­or­ado is gap­ing: A Feb­ru­ary Q poll showed just 36% of men thought Sen. Mark Ud­all (D-CO) should be re-elec­ted, while 48% of wo­men agreed. A Hick­man Ana­lyt­ics (D) poll from last month showed an even lar­ger 17-point gender gap in Ud­all fa­vor­ab­il­ity.

— A fas­cin­at­ing Pub­lic Opin­ion Strategies (R) ana­lys­is shows that des­pite gain­ing sig­ni­fic­ant ground over­all on the gen­er­ic bal­lot since last Oc­to­ber (gov­ern­ment shut­down), Re­pub­lic­ans ac­tu­ally lost ground with wo­men aged 18-49 since then. Nearly all the GOP’s gains have come from white voters and older voters. That may be good enough to win in a midterm year, but without im­prove­ment, it leaves Gard­ner with little room for er­ror. He needs to im­prove on Ken Buck‘s dis­mal 39% show­ing among wo­men in 2010.

— Demo­crats view Gard­ner’s flip-flop as an ad­mis­sion that the GOP can’t win swing states without more cent­rist po­s­i­tion­ing on po­lar­iz­ing so­cial is­sues. (It’s re­min­is­cent of Col­or­ado Rep. Mike Coff­man‘s sim­il­ar back­track­ing on im­mig­ra­tion, run­ning in a re­drawn dis­trict.) The DSCC has already hit MI SEN can­did­ate Terri Lynn Land (R) for sup­port­ing the GOP’s pro-life plat­form. It’s a chal­len­ging tightrope to walk for the GOP: Cul­tur­al is­sues are a vi­tal mo­bil­iz­ing force for so­cial con­ser­vat­ives, but threaten to turn off young­er voters, par­tic­u­larly wo­men.

With even mod­est gains among fe­male voters, Re­pub­lic­ans should have a good chance to re­take the Sen­ate. But Gard­ner’s abil­ity to cut the gender gap in a pivotal battle­ground state will be a lead­ing in­dic­at­or of Re­pub­lic­an per­form­ance in 2016.
— Josh Kraush­aar

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