Personhood a sticky issue for GOP candidates in Colorado

DENVER – With supporters of Colorado’s “Personhood” Amendment turning what appear to be enough signatures to get the controversial abortion ban on November’s ballot, Democrats are wasting little time highlighting Republicans who have supported the measure in the past.

On Wednesday before an audience of mostly women at the Auraria Event Center, President Obama reminded Colorado that Mitt Romney expressed support for Mississippi’s failed Personhood initiative earlier this year.

Also this week, Congressman Ed Perlmutter, D-Golden, and Democrat Joe Miklosi, a congressional candidate in Colorado’s Sixth District, both went after their opponents for their past support of Personhood, which was overwhelmingly defeated in 2008 and 2010.

Perlmutter pointed out that his opponent, Republican Joe Coors, even wrote a $1,000 check to support Personhood two years ago.

Now, as a candidate in the Seventh District, which is almost evenly split between registered Democrats, Republicans and Unaffiliated voters, Coors isn’t taking a position on Personhood.

“Joe won’t be endorsing the Personhood initiative,” Coors’ spokeswoman, Michelle Yi, told FOX31 Denver Friday. “While Joe is pro-life, it’s clear that after two failed attempts on the ballot, Colorado’s voters have spoken and Joe respects their decision.”

While Coors declined FOX31 Denver’s request for an on-camera interview Friday, Perlmutter was more than happy to agree to one.

“He put a thousand dollars behind it two years ago. And now he says he doesn’t endorse it, it’s a national issue,” Perlmutter told FOX31 Denver. “Well it is a national issue from the Republican side, because they keep adding amendments to bills to get rid of Planned Parenthood, to limit abortions, to limit contraception.

“He’s just trying to sweep it under the rug.”

In his fight to unseat Coffman, Miklosi is similarly trying to draw attention to the two-term Republican’s past support for Personhood, as indicated on a 2008 candidate questionnaire for the group, Colorado Right to Life.

Coffman also supported Personhood in 2010, according to the group’s website.

Like Coors, Coffman also was unavailable for an on-camera interview Friday.

“Mike is against all abortions, except when it is necessary to protect the life of the mother,” Coffman’s spokesman, Owen Loftus, told FOX31 Denver. “He is not going to endorse or oppose any state or local ballot questions.”

Notably, Coffman’s position on abortion is also different from where he stood two years ago, when he indicated that he opposed abortion with no exceptions, even in the case of rape or incest.

Now, Miklosi is attacking Coffman for trying to “cover up” his real views.

“Mike Coffman is desperately trying to conceal his support for radical Personhood laws that would ban important forms of contraception and outlaw abortions even in cases of rape or incest,” said Miklosi.

“Mike Coffman’s actions speak much louder than his attempt to hide his past support for Personhood. We’ll have to see if there is another change to his Wikipedia page, but even that won’t be enough to cover up his extreme Rush Limbaugh-style record.”

Coffman, due to redistricting, now faces a much tougher reelection challenge than he has before.

But Congressman Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, who is expected to win reelection easily, is also adhering to the new GOP line on Personhood, with a spokeswoman telling the Colorado Statesman that he too won’t be taking positions on statewide ballot measures this year, even though Gardner also supported Personhood in the past.

Republicans believe Democrats are bringing up this controversial wedge issue to distract voters from economic issues.

“It’s not surprising that Congressman Perlmutter would rather try to distract voters with this issue than defend his voting record on issues like the failed 2009 stimulus package,” said Yi. “Our campaign will continue to focus on the issues that are important to voters like getting our economy back on track and reining in federal deficit spending.”

But, political analyst Norman Provizer, a professor at Metro State University of Denver, doesn’t blame Democrats for a strategy that paid dividends for Sen. Michael Bennet in his razor-thin victory over Republican Ken Buck.

“Democrats rely on women voters,” Provizer told FOX31. “And they rely on unaffiliated voters. Personhood, if you look at how 70 percent of Colorado voters oppose it, is not one of those things that plays well with undecided voters or with women. It’s seen as extreme.”

Laura Chapin, a Democratic strategist in the state, is downright giddy about Personhood’s possibly presence on the Colorado ballot paying dividends for President Obama in November, as well as other Democratic candidates.

“Just as it was for Ken Buck against Michael Bennet in 2010, it’s a huge liability for Mitt Romney and the Republicans in Colorado in 2012,” Chapin told FOX31. “Colorado has 114,000 more registered women voters than men, including 17,000 in Jefferson, a key swing county.”

Romney has not taken a position on Colorado’s Personhood measure, but he was clear in expressing his support for a very similar initiative in Mississippi.

And if Personhood is certified for the November ballot, it could have a small but significant effect not just on congressional races, Provizer said, but also on a presidential race that could come down to Colorado.

“There are some states where this issue just isn’t going to make a difference,” Provizer said. “But this happens to be a swing state, a toss-up. And anything that helps bring out your voters or convince voters who are in the middle that your opponent is too much on one side is helpful.”