Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) survived a mini-scandal that lasted only a few hours the evening of Oct. 15 when Deadspin quoted a man described as a “local high school football historian,” who claimed Gardner never played high school football.
Gardner would not have been the first middle-aged man in America to spin a fib about his high school athleticism. But it was more important in this case because Gardner, a Republican running against Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), told a high school football anecdote from his playing days in a Washington Post article.
He compared Udall’s campaign to a high school team still using a single-wing offense only because all of the other teams were running single-wing offenses.
The historian accused Deadspin of “mischaracterizing” his quote after Gardner’s Twitter team quickly produced two photos showing Gardner posing in his high school football uniform.
So he was off that hook.
However, at least one moment in the Udall-Gardner debate held the same evening the football flap broke was much tougher for the Republican congressman to handle.
The debate focused on the campaign themes that have characterized the Senate race that Democrats thought was a lock for their candidate: energy, Obamacare, Gardner’s stand on “personhood” and abortion.
Kyle Clark, a KUSA-TV news anchor and one of the debate moderators, pinned Gardner down on the Life at Conception Act that the Republican sponsored in the U.S. House in 2013. The moderator said the legislation was written in support of “personhood,” which Gardner denied.
Gardner said he does not support “personhood” but was opposed to abortion, and the Life at Conception bill was about abortion, not personhood.
“The bill is simply a statement that I support life,” said Gardner.
The moderator said that view of the legislation was at odds with how other sponsors of the legislation had described it and accused Gardner of a “willing suspension of the facts.”
Udall didn’t have any easy time under Clark’s questioning, either. He could not name a single Obama administration policy he would vote against in the next two years.
“Certainly I am more than ready to vote for raising the minimum wage, for paycheck fairness for women doing the same job as a man, I think we ought to make college more affordable,” he said.
Clark pointed out those policies were what Obama had in mind when the president said his name was not on any of the November ballots but voters would be deciding the fates of his administration’s policies.
“My question was, ‘Are there items on the president’s agenda that you do not support?’” said Clark.
“I am focused on this race here. My compass is a Colorado compass,” said Udall. “When he didn’t stand up for the Simpson-Bowles agreement and when he gave the green light to the National Security Agency to continue spying on Americans, I stood up to the president.”
One more football analogy, albeit mixed: Gardner is proving, no matter which candidate performed better at the Oct. 15 debate, the best defense is an outstanding offense.
The Republican has pulled together the GOP’s conservative base in Colorado and appears to be on his way to a Seattle Seahawks-style upset of the Denver Broncos, which of course really rocked the entire state of Colorado (and that was the last football reference—I promise).
The first two weeks of October have turned out to be outstanding for Gardner. Polls from Fox News, the Denver Post, CNN Opinion Research and Quinnipiac University all have him leading Udall by single digits.
The Real Clear Politics average on October 16 had Gardner in the lead by 3 points. Real Clear Politics has called this race a “toss-up” since early September, noting then that Gardner was a “rising star” in Colorado politics and Udall’s approval ratings were tied to Obama’s numbers in the polls.
So, of course, conservatives are going to knot that connection as tightly as possible.
Secure America Now, boasting an advisory committee that includes former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton, tied Obama and Udall together in a 15-second video published Oct. 15.
It is part of an advocacy campaign targeting Sens. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Rep. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), along with Udall.
“Pryor, Udall, Landrieu, Shaheen and Peters have all shirked the responsibility of securing the border, and that is unacceptable,” said David Goder, the director of Secure America Now. “We cannot stand by and allow our elected officials to neglect their responsibility to the citizens of this country.
The video accused Obama and Udall of “doing nothing” to protect American borders threatened by “Islamic extremists.”
“While pro-open border groups and supporters of illegal immigration are gearing up attacks in key Senate races, Secure America Now is getting involved,” said Allen Roth, president of the group.
Obama was scheduled to visit seven states, campaigning for eight Democrats the last week before Election Day.
Udall and Colorado are not among them.
— Cory Gardner (@CoryGardner) October 15, 2014