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March 27, 2014 9:43 AM The Naked Flip-Flop

By Ed Kilgore

As you might have heard, Rep. Cory Gardner has generated great excitement in Beltway GOP circles by his decision to jump into the Colorado U.S. Senate race against Mark Udall. He’s not only considered a highly presentable young pol, but his entry into the Senate race saves Colorado Republicans from the Chinese water torture of watching Ken Buck blow another race.

But Gardner’s first step as a candidate, theoretically a popular one, has some observers wondering about his, well, integrity. Mike Littwin of the Colorado Independent writes about Gardner’s flip-flop on the Personshood Amendment that is a perennial cause in that state:

He’s the guy who, about two minutes after he got in the U.S. Senate race, about 10 seconds after he basically cleared the Republican primary field, changed his long-held position on “personhood” as if he were changing socks.
His explanation to ace reporter Lynn Bartels for the switch was that he had misunderstood the whole “personhood” debate, which defines life at conception and would basically outlaw abortion and emergency contraception even after rape and leave open what can be done in case of miscarriage. It would outlaw if passed — and, of course, it would never pass — certain kinds of common contraception.
Even though Gardner was running for Congress and the issue was on the ballot and it was being widely discussed and he was passing out petitions in support of the personhood amendment and everyone else in Colorado knew what the amendment would do, Gardner says he somehow didn’t understand the bit about contraception.
Now this makes him either not too bright or not too curious or not too honest — and since he is both bright and curious, you can see the difficulty. At minimum, you’d think Gardner would have investigated an issue he was so intently supporting. At minimum, you’d think someone on his staff would have tipped him off.
When asked, Gardner said he began thinking about changing his mind after the 2010 election when voters rejected the amendment nearly 3-to-1. That seemed like a reasonable explanation for a politician. When voters reject something you support 3-to-1, it’s often wise to get on the other side of the issue — or at least stop talking about it.
And yet since that time, Gardner twice co-sponsored federal personhood-like bills in the House, one also sponsored by Rand Paul in the Senate, known as the Life Begins at Conception Act. In other words, even as Gardner was apparently mulling whether to change his mind on personhood, he was signing on to co-sponsor personhood legislation.

In truth, the whole “personhood” thing is how Republican pols convince antichoicers they are aren’t just summer soldiers for the RTL cause; that their fidelity goes far beyond popular late-term abortion bans and extends to messing with the contraceptive devices and medications that basically the entire female population of the United States relies upon.

It’s likely okay when you represent a House district with a Cook PVI of R+12, as Gardner does, but another thing altogether when you’re running against an incumbent senator in a purple state. I don’t know how many Colorado women use IUDs (over 2 million do nationally, a number that is rising rapidly), but if you were one of them, or loved one of them, or worked with one of them, would you even consider voting for somebody who called her a baby-killer based on an obscure biological theory rejected by mainstream OB/GYNs? Probably not.

But if I were running a campaign against Gardner, I wouldn’t let him off the hook by just accepting his lame explanation of his flip-flop on “personhood.” I’d make him crawl back to the mainstream over the broken glass of his unshakable belief that “human life begins at conception.”

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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