DENVER — In a new television ad from his campaign, GOP U.S. Senate candidate Cory Gardner attempts to draw a distinction between himself, as the son of a tractor salesman, with Democratic Sen. Mark Udall, the scion of one of a western political dynasty.
Gardner, standing in his family’s farm implements business in Yuma, begins the ad by saying that Udall is a “nice guy,” which also serves as the title of the new 30-second spot.
“He’s a nice guy who will never change the Senate,” Gardner continues. “He is the Senate. Eighteen years in politics, and he’s got two cousins who are senators too. Mark Udall’s dad even ran for president.
“My dad, he sells tractors — and I’m darn proud of that. Let’s shake up the Senate.”
Gardner, 39, whose ads have mostly closed with that tagline, has been subtly trying to position himself as a younger, fresher alternative to the first term senator, who is 63.
Democrats quickly derided the new ad, which is notably less subtle, as “a new low” and pointed out that one of the cousins Gardner refers to, Utah Sen. Mike Lee, is a Republican (Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico is a Democrat).
Mo Udall, Mark’s father, served in Congress for 30 years and built a reputation as a liberal with an ability to work across the aisle.
“You know, Congressman Gardner’s run some other ads featuring members of his own family,” Udall said. “And you know what I thought? ‘Congressman Gardner and I have some big disagreements about the issues in this campaign — but I have no doubt he’s proud of that family of his, from his father to his own kids. And he ought to be.’
“This race should be about who can better represent the great state of Colorado, not personal attacks on our families. So, to see Congressman Gardner decide to go after my late father and members of my family in a negative ad, that’s just low, no matter what ‘generation’ Congressman Gardner claims to represent.
“I’m proud of my dad. He was as Western and bipartisan and commonsense as a man could get,” Udall continued. “Folks loved my dad, I loved my dad, and that isn’t gonna change no matter how personal and negative Congressman Gardner’s campaign gets.
“This just isn’t the way we do things here in Colorado, and it’s a shame Congressman Gardner doesn’t know any better.”
Gardner’s campaign shrugged off Udall’s outrage.
“This is rich. For six months Senator Udall has done nothing but wage the nastiest campaign in America and now he is upset that we are calling him a nice guy? Mark Udall has been in Washington for so long and is so partisan that he can’t even take a compliment when it comes from the other party.”
Craig Hughes, the strategist who oversaw Sen. Michael Bennet’s successful 2010 Senate campaign, told FOX31 Denver that it’s difficult for an aspiring career politician to attack their opponent for being one.
“There’s a real way to tap into voters frustration with Congress but Gardner’s team missed the mark by attacking Udall’s family and also forgetting that he’s a sitting member of Congress,” Hughes said. “That’s a great ad for a guy like Ken Buck, but not for Cory Gardner, who’s spent his whole life trying to get into higher office.
“It’s one politician attacking another politician for holding the spot that he covets.”