Originally published in the Washington Times.
In June I was at a Cory Gardner for Senate get-together. The Colorado Republican candidate told a roomful of friends that he was surprised to see his Democratic opponent, Mark Udall, running ads accusing Gardner of banning birth control – since Gardner had just picked up his wife’s birth control pills. Everybody laughed.
Not so funny, given that for months Udall has been manipulating women with the identical psych ops assault that’s been highly successful in the Democrats winning the female vote: Republicans will end abortion and make you bear your rapist’s baby! Plus –no more birth control for you!
Even if Cory Gardner wanted to, which of course he doesn’t, he couldn’t do any of this: women’s right to abortion is guaranteed since the Supreme Court decided Roe vs. Wade over 40 years ago. But neither law nor truth ever slows the Democrat sleaze machine. Democrats know this shameless terror-mongering works because it worked so beautifully the very first time in Colorado’s landmark 2010 senatorial campaign.
Republican candidate and respected District Attorney Ken Buck had a comfortable lead over Democrat Michael Bennet until Bennet’s campaign unleashed a vicious swarm of TV and radio ads similar to those we’re seeing now. Buck had the misfortune to be a pro-life Catholic, which Democrats inflated to preposterous anti-woman hysteria: women would be jailed for abortion, denied birth control, the works.
Stunningly, their blitz flipped the contest in a twinkling. The Wednesday before the election I was making get-out-the-vote calls to Republican women, and I was shocked when many said they couldn’t vote for Buck because he would end their access to birth control and abortions. I said none of that was true. But they couldn’t understand why, if the terrible things said about him were lies, the candidate wasn’t fighting back. One told me, “I’m waiting to see him on TV, denying it.”
It’s a funny thing about Colorado Republican women voters, and probably women voters everywhere. They expect a candidate who is being publicly slimed to have enough manly pride to defend himself. They wonder how he can stand tough for them in Washington, if he can’t even stand tough for himself.
That’s pretty much what I told a top Buck operative after making those calls that Wednesday afternoon. But he said voters didn’t want an angry-looking candidate; also they didn’t have money to combat the ads. I suggested that Buck use free media: call a press conference and indignantly denounce the poisonous ads. No need, said the operative, since their “computer modeling” showed Buck ahead by double digits.
In the end, Buck lost women by an incredible 17 points and the election by just one point; an astounding defeat in 2010 when Republicans claimed victory all over the country and took back the House plus the majority of governorships and statehouses.
The Democrats learned a lot about last ditch slash-and-burn attacks from that race. Guy Cecil, who orchestrated Bennet’s war on women, was rewarded with a promotion to head the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee from whence he spread the malignant “Bennet model” nationwide. In 2012, nearly every swing state saw identical carpet-bombing ads from Congressional contests to the statehouse, all claiming anti-woman Republicans would outlaw reproductive choices.
This tactic cynically exploits women’s emotional vulnerability. The Democrats have repeatedly played on this scare (in 2012 Obama told the world Romney would repeal Roe vs. Wade) because they know it touches a deep emotional chord in women with a fear simmering somewhere beyond reason. Every woman knows a woman or two or three who have been raped. Maybe she’s been raped herself. Research says about one out of five women have been raped or sexually assaulted but the real number is likely greater since most rape goes unreported. So when women–even intelligent Republican women—are told they will be forced to bear a rapist’s baby, a visceral reaction kicks in.
Mark Udall, who votes Obama’s way 99% of the time, is hoping that emotion will overwhelm women’s real issues – the jobs they and their families have lost in the “recovery,” rising gas and energy prices due to Democrats’ anti-fossil-fuel mania, hundreds of thousands of Coloradans losing their chosen insurance, doctors and hospitals through Obamacare for which Udall voted – all the main concerns of voters of any gender nationwide.
Udall styles himself a champion of women but cold-heartedly exploits us with lying propaganda against his opponent and pays his women staffers only 82 cents for every dollar he pays the men. Men who care about women don’t try to control them with fabricated fears and emotional bullying; these are the very ploys commonly used by the worst abusers of women.
Democrats’ desperation has driven them to again manipulate women in a contemptible way. It started in Colorado, but we’re not going to let them play us again. Recent polls sponsored by the Colorado Women’s Alliance show 77 percent of women voters surveyed “see through the so-called Democrat ‘War on Women’ strategy.” And this time, Republican candidates must learn they can’t bring a squirt gun to a knife fight.
Joy Overbeck is a Colorado journalist and author.