Karl Rove Wants to Start a ‘Real Conversation About Issues That Matter,’ Not the Silly Women's Rights Stuff

Republican strategist Karl Rove is planning a full $6 million political advertising assault on Colorado voters in the coming weeks in support of U.S. Senate candidate Cory Gardner. The first-round ad hit the airwaves this week. It attempts to persuade Colorado women not to concern themselves primarily with Gardner’s record as a long-standing hardline anti-abortion lawmaker. The ad attempts to do this by changing the subject.

“I want a real conversation about the issues that matter,” says one of four women in the ad standing around a marble-topped kitchen island, sipping coffee. “We’re not single-issue voters. We care about good jobs that support our families,” says another.

The pivot to the economy from abortion and women’s health issues more generally — neither of which topics are mentioned in the ad — is clearly the strategy the Gardner campaign has adopted for the final six-week stretch to Election Day. It’s the same move Gardner made in debate last week in Grand Junction against incumbent Democrat Mark Udall.

“When it comes to a woman’s reproductive rights and women’s health, how can women and families trust you?” asked Udall. “You voted for a class three felony bill that would punish doctors more than rapists. You voted against providing emergency contraception to rape victims. You supported a bill to defund Planned Parenthood… How can families and how can women trust you when it comes to staying out of their personal health care decisions?”

Gardner didn’t answer the question.

“Senator Udall, I look forward to growing an economy that makes sure that women have jobs in this country, the kind of jobs that they are lacking right now. I look forward to putting economic policies together that keep women in this country from struggling to make ends meet as they are under Barack Obama’s failed economy.”

Udall has relentlessly called out Gardner for his anti-abortion record. It seems to be working. Colorado is now a solid socially liberal or at least libertarian state. Voters have defeated anti-abortion personhood measures at the ballot box by wide margins for years running. Similar legislative efforts have fizzled in first-round committee hearings. Udall now leads the once-tossup race by double digits for the first time since Gardner entered the race in the spring.

As Greg Sargent underlines today in the Washington Post, the dynamic shaping the Udall-Gardner race is part of a pattern unfolding around the country, where Democrats are now the ones playing offense in the culture wars. He quotes Jonathan Martin in the New York Times to bolster his point.

“After decades in which Republicans successfully exploited cultural wedge issues… Dems are now using social issues to ‘stoke concerns among moderate voters, especially women, and motivate their base.’”

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