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
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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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