Back in August, Republican pundit and strategist Dick Wadhams was asked by KNUS radio host Matt Dunn if a "pro-life Republican" can win a "state-wide at the present time."
Wadhams: As long as they don't make that the centerpiece of their campaign, or, to be honest, as long as they don't endorse and embrace the personhood amendment. Bob Schaffer did not endorse personhood. Archbishop Chaput did not support personhood. It has dragged down a lot of Republicans in Colorado and across the nation.
I like the "to be honest" part, because it shows that Wadhams was going the extra mile to be frank, to express a reluctant truth.
Maybe GOP Senate candidate Cory Gardner was listening to Wadhams, because yesterday Gardner reversed his longstanding support for the personhood measure, which would ban all abortion, even for rape, saying he didn't fully understand it.
Until yesterday, Gardner certainly fell in the category of someone who embraced personhood, like Wadhams said no pro-life Republican candidate should do, if he or she wants to win a state-wide election.
During his run for Congress, in 2010, Gardner couldn't have been more clear about his support for personhood. "I have signed the personhood petition," Gardner was videotaped saying.. "I have taken the petitions to my church, and circulating into my church." He touted his personhood support to win his first congressional primary election.
The video of Gardner confirms what the founder of Colorado's personhood movement, Kristi Brown (formerly Kristi Burton) told me a couple years ago at a news conference. She called Gardner one of the "main supporters" of the initial personhood campaign. Gardner was "very, very supportive" and attended personhood events and talked about the measure, she said.
Gardner continued to "embrace the personhood amendment," to use Wadhams' phrase again, as recently as last year when he endorsed federal personhood legislation.
Things changed yesterday, about a month after Gardner announced his candidacy for state-wide office. That's when Wadhams' (or someone's) advice about the toxicity of personhood to state-wide candidates seems to have struck Gardner.
But will Gardner be able to un-endorse and un-embrace personhood and win?
Ask Ken Buck, the last failed GOP Senate candidate in Colorado. In 2010, Buck un-endorsed personhood, just as Gardner did yesterday, saying he didn't understand the measure, particularly that it would ban forms of birth control. And apparently like Gardner, who said personhood is driven by "good intentions," Buck said he still supported personhood "as a concept."
Buck was still hammered for his extreme anti-abortion position, and it arguably caused him to lose his race to Democrat Michael Bennet.
Wadhams appeared to acknowledge Buck's vulnerabilities in a February Denver Post opinion piece, where he wrote that Republicans need "a new generation" of candidates to respond to the "challenges with suburban women, unaffiliated voters and Hispanics."
But how could Gardner be part of that new generation without dumping personhood? Especially with the ghost of Ken Buck hanging around. He had dump it.
But, still, how many suburban women -- or women anywhere -- can get excited about a candidate, like Gardner, who was a full-on supporter of an amendment that would take away their option to have an abortion, even if they were raped? That is, until he started running for state-wide office.
Not many, to be honest. And I think Wadhams would have to agree.
Follow Jason Salzman on Twitter @bigmediablog
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