THE BLOG
03/12/2014 02:02 pm ET | Updated May 12, 2014

The 'Two-Whacks' Gardner Theory

To the people who tell me I should get hazard pay for listening to conservative talk radio, I prove you wrong by offering this intelligent insight from KHOW radio host Dan Caplis, delivered during a discussion about why Rep. Cory Gardner would take on Sen. Mark Udall in November:

Caplis: "My guess is, there's a big-picture plan in play, and if should Cory lose, and I think he will likely win, but nothing is for certain, the campaign keeps rolling into '16 and he beats Michael Bennet... So I think Cory gets two whacks at it here."

Since I heard Caplis' "two-whacks" Gardner theory last month, I've shared it with the three people I know who've heard of Gardner and are already paying attention to the Senate race, and everyone nods their heads in enlightenment. Of course. So I've decided to share it here, with a big hat tip to Caplis.

On the radio, Caplis didn't get into the details on why Gardner would need two whacks, or even more, to win but it makes a ton of sense when you think about it.

First, there's the simple fact that Gardner is essentially an untested candidate, with no state-wide campaign experience, who's prevailed in safe elections in districts that welcome his far-right positions on everything the environment and Medicare and to women's issues and gay rights.

He was first launched into elected office with no election at all, after he was appointed in July 2005 to a State House seat (HD63) left vacant by Greg Brophy, who ran for state State Senate. The next year, Gardner ran unopposed in the Republican primary, and his Democratic opponent had no hope in the safe GOP district that voted 73 percent for Gardner. Two years later, in 2008, Gardner was completely unopposed in both the GOP primary and general election.

Gardner briefly faced a handful of GOP opponents when he first ran for Congress in 2010. But they failed to gain the requisite 30 percent at the District Assembly, where Gardner successfully positioned himself to the right of his competitors on personhood, gay rights, and even the posting of the 10 commandments in public buildings. His opponents dropped out, and Gardner was left unopposed at the primary ballot box.

Going into the general election, Gardner was the overwhelming favorite to defeat Rep. Betsy Markey, who was seen as lucky to be holding the seat at all in the conservative district. Democrats, you recall, seemed to be praying that a third-party candidate could somehow propel Markey to victory, but the prayers weren't answered, as Gardner won with 51 percent of the voter over Markey's 40 percent. And, oh yeah, 2010 was the big Tea-Party wave year.

Gardner himself was probably surprised that his CD4 seat actually got even more conservative due to the 2010 redistricting process, setting up Gardner to win re-election in 2012 with 56 percent of the vote.

When I first heard Caplis two-whacks theory, I didn't know all these details about Gardner's softball campaign history, but I still thought Caplis had it right just based on Udall's appeal and war chest, as well as all the uncertainty we see on the 2014 political landscape.

Everyone watching Gardner had this question in the back of their minds: Why would Gardner risk the end of his political career on one iffy election and, at the same time, forsake a political path that looked like it really could be heading toward Speaker of the House? Two whacks increases the odds and takes the pressure off.

But even with the two-whacks carrot, Caplis pointed out on air that really intense national pressure was required to push Gardner into the Senate race:

Caplis: I think what happened, my guess, is that there was so much pressure on Cory nationally because, as you know, the control of the U.S. Senate may very well depend on who wins this Colorado Senate seat.

This is quite a different story than what Gardner has been telling talk-radio audiences, that he decided to jump in the Senate race when he found out his health-insurance premium would jump due to Obamacare -- a sob story that's been debunked.

Caplis' national-pressure explanation, coupled with his two-whacks theory, makes more sense than Gardner's. It's an example of how Caplis, in between repeating GOP talking points and obsessing on trivialities, provides a lot of political insight on his KHOW show.