Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

When U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO) launched his challenge to incumbent Democratic senator Mark Udall, one of his first moves was backtracking on his support for fetal personhood, which would ban abortion and outlaw some forms of birth control and emergency contraception.

“This was a bad idea driven by good intentions,” Gardner told The Denver Post in March. “I was not right. I can’t support personhood now. I can’t support personhood going forward…The fact that it restricts contraception, it was not the right position.”

As the general election draws nearer, Gardner is getting even more vocal about contraception. Last week, his campaign released an ad in which the congressman touts the virtues of making birth control pills available over the counter, while an audience of women smiles, nods, and applauds.

Gardner’s motives aren’t tough to divine. Female voters will likely make the difference in Colorado’s tight Senate race, and polls have consistently shown Udall ahead among women. Furthermore, according to an NBC News/Marist poll released Sunday, 59 percent of voters are less likely to vote for a candidate who supports restrictions on the use of contraception, while just 14 percent would be more likely. In short: Unless Gardner convinces voters that he’s had a genuine change of heart, he’s in deep trouble.

Democrats, of course, know this as well. That’s why on Monday, two Democratic groups released new ads attacking Gardner’s record on women’s health.

The first ad, from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, criticizes Gardner’s support for abortion bans, noting that “Cory Gardner sponsored a law which would have made it a class three felony to perform an abortion.”

The second, from MoveOn.org and NARAL Pro-Choice America, critizes Gardner’s birth control plan.

“Last year Gardner sponsored a federal personhood bill that could outlaw some of the most effective and reliable forms of contraception,” the ad’s female narrator says. “And Gardner’s new plan could cost women $600 a year in out-of-pocket medical costs.”

While Gardner has taken the most heat from Democrats, he is not the only Republican Senate candidate to try to attract female voters by backing over-the-counter contraception. Minnesota’s Mike McFadden, North Carolina’s Thom Tillis, and Virginia’s Ed Gillespie have all pushed similar messages.

It probably won’t work. After all, the Republican candidates are still on record as fiercely opposing the Affordable Care Act, which mandates that private insurance plans cover some contraceptive costs. All four also spoke out in favor of the Supreme Court’s controversial Hobby Lobby decision, which greatly expanded corporations’ ability to circumvent the contraception mandate. And, most important, women are likely to recognize that — while the new Republican plan is better than nothing — offering birth control over the counter without continuing to compel insurance companies to pay for it would be a bad deal for them.

More Republicans will likely adopt the Gardner position, in an effort to blunt claims of a GOP “war on women.” But as Monday’s ads show, Democrats won’t let the flip-flops go unnoticed.

Screenshot: MoveOn.org/YouTube

Want more political news and analysis? Sign up for our daily email newsletter!

Sen. David Perdue

Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) pulled out of his final debate against Democrat Jon Ossoff on Thursday —because he'd rather attend a Donald Trump campaign rally.

The Nov. 1 Senate debate was planned months ago, but Perdue's campaign said he could not participate as promised because he has been too busy doing his job.

"Senator Perdue will not be participating in the WSB-TV debate but will instead join the 45th president, Donald J. Trump, for a huge Get-Out-The-Vote rally in Northwest Georgia. For 8 of the last 14 days of this campaign, Senator Perdue went back to Washington to work for much needed COVID relief," his spokesperson John Burke said in a statement, referencing a failed attempt by Senate Republicans to pass Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-KY) "skinny" $500 billion proposal.

"To make up for the lost time, Senator Perdue has over 20 campaign stops planned for the closing days of this race, and he is excited to welcome and join President Trump in Georgia before November 3rd to campaign for both of their re-election efforts," Burke added.

WSB-TV noted on Thursday that it offered Perdue's campaign other time slots to accommodate the Trump rally, but the overture was rebuffed.

Ossoff's campaign blasted Perdue's "cowardly withdrawal," saying in a statement that the move "says it all: David Perdue feels entitled to his office, and he'll do anything to avoid accountability for his blatant corruption and his total failure during this unprecedented health crisis."

The incumbent's decision to break his promise to debate came one day after a video of Jon Ossoff criticizing Perdue's anti-Obamacare record at a Wednesday debate went viral. As of Friday morning, a 72-second clip of Ossoff has been viewed more than 12 million times.

Perdue responded to that attack by making the odd claim that he repeatedly voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act — which would take insurance away from hundreds of thousands of his constituents — because he believed doing so would cover more people.

"I voted against the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, because it was taking insurance away from millions of Georgians. Today almost 18 percent of Georgians don't have any health insurance because of the Affordable Care Act," he falsely claimed.

This is not the first time Perdue has put Trump ahead of the interests of Georgians. According to FiveThirtyEight, he has voted with Trump about 95 percent of the time, including backing his right-wing Supreme Court nominees, his tax cuts for large corporations and the very wealthy, and his repeated attempts to take money from military families to pay for a massive Southern border wall.

Medical experts and data analyses have suggested Trump's rallies have been super-spreader events for the coronavirus. Trump has refused to adhere to social distancing rules or to require mask usage at the events and the mass gatherings have frequently been immediately followed by case spikes in the communities where he holds them.

One poll this week found that voters across the country said they are less likely to vote for Trump because of his "large, in-person campaign rallies where wearing a mask is not required of attendees."

The race between Ossoff and Perdue is considered a "toss-up" by election experts, and polls show it as virtual tied.

If no candidate gets a majority on Tuesday, the top two finishers will face off in a January runoff.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.