Littwin: The purple state and its would-be Tea Party senator

Lock up any sharp objects. It would a be a one-term, tumultuous love-hate affair.

Littwin: The purple state and its would-be Tea Party senator

 
Whatever else you say about Cory Gardner, you have to admire his nerve.

We don’t yet know how he decided to get into the Senate race — whether he jumped or was pushed — and we won’t know for a while whether the decision will turn out to be wise or foolish, but we do know that it took guts.

All the talk is about how Gardner’s decision to take on Mark Udall changes everything — and it does. But it doesn’t simply change the dynamics of the race or improve Republicans’ chances to take over the Senate.

It will also likely change, forever, the course of Gardner’s political life.

To make this run, he’s giving up his House seat, a sure path to House leadership and, if he loses, the likelihood that someday he’d be perfectly positioned to run for governor, his dream job.

Can the 10th-most conservative House member — a number that most Tea Partiers would give up their Ted Cruz decoder ring to claim — really be elected statewide in a Colorado that has been trending blue for a decade?

Instead, he’s risking it all — to enter a race quite late, to start well behind in fundraising, to challenge an incumbent who has far greater name recognition and to have to learn how to run a statewide race on the fly.

As of now, Gardner seems to be in hiding. The Lynn Bartels scoop apparently caught him so off guard that he has had to reconstruct his announcement strategy.

But we can guess that he was talked into running by national Republicans desperate to replace Ken Buck with a stronger candidate. Obviously, Udall’s poll numbers are weak. And just as obviously, the PAC money will start pouring in with TV ads blaming Udall as the “deciding” vote on Obamacare.

It’s clear, too, that Gardner rushed into the decision, which seems strange for someone as careful as Gardner, who had turned down the chance to run repeatedly. According to Ken Buck, the discussions began about 10 days ago. According to Amy Stephens, Gardner told her Monday night. You only have to look at Gardner’s House voting record — in which he has consistently voted hard right — to see that he wasn’t planning a statewide run. You win in Colorado by appealing to the center. You win everywhere that way, but especially in Colorado.

There will be a lot of numbers that you’ll hear in this race, but maybe the most significant one is that the National Journal ranked Gardner as the 10th most conservative member in what is the most conservative House in memory. (Udall was named the 34th most liberal in the Senate.)

Can the 10th most conservative House member — a number that most Tea Partiers would give up their Ted Cruz decoder ring to claim — really be elected statewide in a Colorado that has been trending blue for a decade?

The quick answer is probably not. The more thoughtful answer is that this may be a wave election, that Obamacare is a killer issue, that Gardner talks a much more moderate game than his voting record would suggest, that Udall has never faced an opponent this tough and that, sure, he’s got a decent chance.

Gardner is the best Republican available. He’s smart. He’s likable. And it’s an off-year election. This is important. Democrats don’t get the same turnout in off-year elections. As Barack Obama said recently, Democrats don’t see these elections as sexy. If demographics suggest Colorado is an increasingly blue state, this off-year, Democrats-reeling, Obama’s-sixth-year-blues election might be the best chance for Gardner to sneak in. The national handicappers have moved the race to “lean D,” meaning Udall is favored, but not by a lot.

And Gardner did sweep away most of a weak field of GOP rivals — except for young Sen. Owen Hill, the Ron Paul Republican, who had a chance to blow this thing up. At the Denver Post debate the other night, Hill could have asked Buck why he was negotiating with Gardner to switch places — Buck running for the 4th, Gardner running in the Senate. What could Buck have said? He’d have been dancing his high heels off trying to answer. Hill is now loudly complaining about so-called backroom deals — now that it’s too late.

Gardner has one issue, the big one, Obamacare. He can’t effectively go after Udall as a Washington insider. Gardner was a “rising star” in the House. You can’t be a rising star in Washington and not be a Washington insider.

But Udall is stuck with Obamacare and the so-called “lie” about keeping your mediocre policy if you want to. How long will that line last? That’s a central question as we head toward November. How many TV ads will it take before people start to tire of hearing Udall being blamed for a project for which he provided little more than his own vote? And if voters do tire of it, what else do they have on Udall? Strangely, at the debate the other night, they were attacking Udall for not being tough enough on the NSA, where Udall has been a leader in calling for more oversight.

And there is another big issue, but it works the other way: the government shutdown. Gardner not only voted for the shutdown, he also voted, just recently, against raising the debt ceiling, risking default. Then there are the rest of the issues. Gardner is on the wrong side of the poll numbers on immigration reform (Bennet beat Buck 81-19 on the Latino vote), on “forcible rape” (remember this vote, because it will become a major issue), on personhood, on abortion, on minimum wage, on cutting $40 billion in food stamps, on gay rights, on his vote for the Ryan budget and its impact on Medicare.

Gardner is not Buck. He probably won’t make the Buck gaffes. But, unlike Buck, Gardner has cast hundreds of votes.

Gardner doesn’t have great name recognition, and he’s late to the race. He will have to introduce himself to most of Colorado even while he’s traveling everywhere else to do fundraisers. Meanwhile, the Democrats will spend months and millions of dollars using Gardner’s votes, one after the other, to frame him as captive to the Tea Party and backward on social issues.

The Gardner move is brave, it’s exciting, it has breathed life into a race Udall figured to win easily. But at this point, it doesn’t take much nerve to ask of Gardner: Is being gutsy enough?

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About the Author

Mike Littwin

He has covered Dr. J, four presidential inaugurations, six national conventions and countless brain-numbing speeches in the New Hampshire and Iowa snow.
mlittwin@coloradoindependent.com | Twitter @mike_littwin

8 Comments

  1. Don Lopez on said:

    “But Udall is stuck with Obamacare and the so-called “lie” about keeping your mediocre policy if you want to.”

    So-called lie? Really?

    That so-called “lie” earned President Obama the Washington Post’s Biggest Pinocchio of 2013 and Politifact’s Lie of the Year. And while those two awards may not be as prestigious as his 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, at least they were earned.

    And “mediocre” can now be added to the list of words Mr. Littwin has sought to redefine along with “lousy”, “cancellation” and “scandal”.

    Speaking of Obamacare, about one month ago Mr. Littwin asked a reader for more information on a health insurance policy that had increased the cost of her health care premium 200%-300%, saying that he’d “love to write about that”. To date, no column or blog entry which strongly suggests that the information Mr. Littwin requested was embarrassing to him and his almost child-like belief that Obamacare can deliver more while costing less.

    But I’m sure Mr. Littwin will apologize to the reader in the same manner and with the same degree of sincerity as did MSNBC’s Martin Bashir shortly before he resigned.

    http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org

  2. ryecatcher on said:

    Mike probably did the “reader” Mr Lopez refers to a favor by not writing anything saving the “reader”, who’s health care premiums went up a so called 300%, further embarrassment. Sounds like right wing hogwash to me.

    In ways I wish he would write something about it. I’ll wager it would be humorous reading given MIke’s superb satirical writing skills. He’s the master at undressing the loony right.

    So much for another Lopez brainfart down the drain where it belongs. Peeuw!

  3. Will Morrison on said:

    Don Lopez REALLY needs to stop watching Faux Noise, the network that went to court to prove it’s right to LIE to the American people. And they have been running with that stance ever since. Know WHY you aren’t seeing a story on these poeple and their insurance that’s gone up 200 – 300%? Because it’s most likely NONSENSE, once you actually look at the available subsidies, it’s probably saving them a few hundred a month. But you won’t be hearing about THAT on Faux Noise, that’s for sure. It’s a shame when people do their damndest to stay ignorant, in spite of there actually being information out there if they would just look BEYOND the lying network.

    On to the topic, which is the lame JERK Corey Gardner. If there is one person you can COUNT on to be on the WRONG side of EVERYTHING, it’s this little twerp. Vote to close down the government, costing the nation $24 BILLION for NOTHING? He’s all for it. Vote for the 90th time against a standing law, EACH of which costs us a cool million? He’s all for it. If there is something that the VAST majority of the citizens of this state want, he’s all AGAINST it. He’s wealthy, THAT’S what he’s got. He’s brain dead ignorant FOOL who thinks that money should rule, in spite of the fact that it’s even MORE brain dead than HE is. He actually thinks that he’s smarter than YOU are, and you should just sit down and shut up while he RUINS the country for EVERYONE.

    This little prick does NOT need a higher office, he needs to be retired IMMEDIATELY. He, like ALL rich people, is NOT the answer, he is the freaking PROBLEM. We need to get rid of ALL private money in elections so we don’t get saddled with scum like COREY GARDNER EVER AGAIN! And certainly NOT for the senate.

    RETIRE THIS JERK IN 2014!

  4. Don Lopez on said:

    “I don’t often agree with George Will.” Mike Littwin, February 14, 2014

    Of course, that has never stopped Mr. Littwin from elevating the stature of his, er, column by paraphrasing/quoting Mr. Will. And I’m sure he would have delayed/canceled the publication of this column had he known that two days later George Will would write a column about this very same subject, only better. Mr. Littwin’s column suffers by comparison but it’s probably unfair to compare Mr. Littwin to the Pulitzer Prize winning, Ph.D, best-selling author and nationally syndicated columnist George Will.

    But there is one quote from that George Will column that, even had he been aware of it, Mr. Littwin would never have used:

    “A recent Quinnipiac poll, which showed Udall only narrowly leading Buck (45 percent to 42 percent), recorded Obama’s approval in Colorado at 37 percent. Sixty percent of Coloradans oppose Obamacare. Gardner, who has a solid conservative voting record but does not have a serrated edge, is suited to purple Colorado.”

    Mr. Littwin never mentioned that poll although he does mention “national handicappers” without, naturally, naming those handicappers. The Colorado Independent seems to have established special (read: lower) journalistic standards for Mr. Littwin.

    Judging from wILLiam MORrisON’s comments he has been watching too much MSLSD. Words he uses to describe Corey Gardner like “jerk”, “twerp”, “prick” are rarely heard outside an elementary school PLAYGROUND. Or MSDNC.

    But, much to his credit, he, at least, accepts accountability by using his name unlike those few pathetic, bottom-feeding, gutless losers who hide behind juvenile pseudonyms to launch their ad hominem attacks.

    I hope Mr. Littwin recognizes and appreciates that I am wholly or partially responsible for four of the five comments generated so far

    You’re welcome!

    http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org

  5. Ryecatcher on said:

    My goodness. Mr Lopez lost his cool in another of his mediocre screeds. I knew if I kept digging Lopez would crack sooner or later.

  6. Don Lopez on said:

    “But, much to his credit, he, at least, accepts accountability by using his name unlike those few pathetic, bottom-feeding, gutless losers who hide behind juvenile pseudonyms to launch their ad hominem attacks.”

    So, you recognized yourself in a sentence that never mentioned you?

    Self-awareness is good, accountability is better. But I understand your reluctance to associate your name with your comments.

    Few people would.

    To update the scoreboard for Mr. Littwin,I am now wholly or partially responsible for six of the eight comments generated so far.

    And again, you’re welcome!

    http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org

  7. Ryecatcher on said:

    Actually I recognize myself as a connoisseur of bull shit when I smell it.

    Accountability? That’s funny.

  8. Don Lopez on said:

    “Actually I recognize myself as a connoisseur of bull shit when I smell it.”

    Really, so do you sniff the screen?

    “But, much to his credit, he, at least, accepts accountability by using his name unlike those few pathetic, bottom-feeding, gutless losers who hide behind juvenile pseudonyms to launch their ad hominem attacks.”

    I forgot to ask: Which of those adjectives struck closer to home?

    I’m betting on “gutless” with “pathetic” a close second.

    With me: 10 comments
    Without me: 2 comments

    http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org

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