High-profile Gardner campaign blunder latest in long line of mistakes

In his campaign to unseat Fourth District Democratic Congresswoman Betsy Markey, Republican Cory Gardner has unleashed all the rhetoric of the Tea Party right, tying her to big government and “Obamacare” and “Dr. Pelosi” and taxing and spending. He paints himself as a pro business conservative, in favor of small but sharp and effective government. His campaign’s high-profile blunder this week is the latest in a series of mistakes and fact-fudging that calls into question his ability to live up to that rhetoric.

In trashing Markey as voting for “the most fiscally irresponsible budget in history” Gardner got it all wrong. Betsy Markey voted against the 2010 budget. It was Massachusetts Rep. Ed Markey who voted for the budget. Markey pointed out the mistake in the CD4 Loveland debate yesterday. Gardner has yet to comment.

The research mistake at the heart of the ad compounded by the ad’s strident tone comes as no surprise. No one watching the Gardner campaign would ever categorize it as a “sharp and effective” operation. As the Colorado Independent reported in the spring, when the “policy program” or “2010 Plan” Gardner touted and promised and tweeted about for months finally appeared online, it was a mess of errors and half-baked stands. Shortly after it was posted, the 2010 Plan was quietly taken down and edited down to mere bullet points.

In May, Gardner accidentally published his entire email list, all 4920 names. He took them down after the blogosphere ridiculed the amateur hour mistake.

The same month he unveiled “eBetsy.com,” a mock eBay auction-style site meant to suggest Markey sold her initial stand against health reform legislation to special interests when she voted for its passage this spring. Except that there was no research or links to back up the accusation. The site misspelled Gardner’s name and the only special interests it listed were ActBlue and Emily’s List, groups that round-up individual small donations from progressive voters and voters who want to support women candidates who support abortion rights. These two groups are as benign as any “special interest” you will find anywhere across the U.S. political landscape. Just because the Americans donating through the organizations won’t be supporting Gardner for policy reasons– including for his stance on health care– doesn’t make them corrupt or even corrupting.

During the summer, Gardner made news mostly for inviting and then dis-inviting firebrand conservative Iowa rep. Steve King to appear on the stump with him in Colorado. Gardner was mocked on conservative radio for a lack of spine. The Gardner campaign never fully explained the turn of events, leading observers to conclude he and his staff didn’t really know who Steve King was.

Gardner also infamously attended a fundraiser hosted by British Petroleum lobbyists in the immediate wake of the BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill catastrophe.

Gardner’s attacks on Markey have gained traction in the Tea Party-heavy Fourth District but they play on broad ideological assumptions.

In fact, Markey is a “blue dog” moderate Democrat. She voted for health care reform only after the bill was tweaked to lower costs. She is a full gun rights proponent. She is a strong supporter of renewable energy mostly to promote future job growth and to wean America off foreign oil. She battles increases to the deficit. She is appalled by Wall Street excesses and has led the charge against credit card company customer gouging.

More to the point, perhaps, is that Markey is a businesswoman, not a politician. She has earned her very good living starting and running businesses. She has mostly worked in the tech and restaurant industries. Her private sector success speaks to her competence and the perspective she brings to DC.

Gardner is a lawyer. He has worked as an adult almost entirely as a state representative. His campaign suggests he lacks serious attention to detail and that he struggles to hire the kind of people that will save tax dollars by working efficiently and coming up with creative solutions to the country’s major problems.

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