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DENVER — Colorado Republicans slammed Democratic U.S. Mark Udall for going negative in a new campaign ad Tuesday — before the ad was introduced by Udall’s campaign — while GOP Congressman Cory Gardner, Udall’s opponent, attempted to claim the moral high ground with his own ad.

The second ad from Udall’s campaign, which began airing Tuesday, focuses on the same line of attack as its first: hitting Gardner for supporting personhood (he has since disavowed the statewide ballot measure language but not the overall concept and remains a co-sponsor of federal personhood legislation in Congress) and for co-sponsoring legislation as a state lawmaker that would have made abortion a crime even in cases of rape or incest.

“Because this really matters, it’s important you hear this directly from me,” Udall says, speaking into the camera as the new ad opens. “My opponent, Congressman Gardner, led a crusade that would make birth control illegal. He sponsored a bill to make abortion a felony, even in cases of rape or incest.

“His record is beyond troubling; it’s wrong. We’re talking about your rights as women, as families, as Coloradans. I’m Mark Udall. You have a right to live life on your own terms, to make your own choices and that’s why I approved this message.”

Republicans blasted the ad in a release Tuesday and Gardner’s campaign quickly responded with a web ad of its own in an effort to blunt the impact of Udall’s personhood attack.

“Sen. Mark Udall and his campaign are so worried about Cory Gardner’s positive vision for the future that they have decided to double down on the bitter and divisive politics of the past,” Colorado GOP Chairman Ryan Call said in the release. “Colorado is ready for a new generation of leadership in Washington, DC and if Coloradans needed any more evidence that Sen. Udall is not that leader, he proved it today.

“Sen. Udall has voted with President Obama 99 percent of the time in Washington, DC and has accomplished little as Colorado’s most senior senator. If he was proud of his 18 year record in elective office, he would be touting it instead of lying about Congressman Gardner’s.”

Gardner’s ad, released later Tuesday afternoon, features the Republican explaining, “Here’s what’s happening: Barack Obama’s smart guys from Washington think they can come into Colorado to play politics.

“They’re attacking me for changing my mind on personhood after I learned more from listening to all of you. No wonder Sen. Udall and President Obama can’t relate to that. Their takeover of health care is a disaster. And we all know it. Yet Udall and Obama refused to listen while everyone else pays for it. I’m Cory Gardner. I will listen, and I approved this message.”

Based on an initial review of the new Udall ad, none of the claims therein appear to factually untrue.

“The ad speaks for itself. It speaks from the heart and speaks to the facts,” said Chris Harris, a spokesman for the Udall campaign. “And, sadly, Congressman Gardner’s troubling record speaks for itself, too – a record no press release can undo, a record too far outside the mainstream to be accepted in Colorado.”

In 2007, Gardner co-sponsored Senate Bill 143 to make abortion a felony even in cases of rape or incest, which only allowed abortions in cases “designed to protect the death of a pregnant mother, if the physician makes reasonable medical efforts under the circumstances to preserve both the life of the mother and the life of her unborn child in a manner consistent with conventional medical practice.”

Gardner’s campaign has already pointed out: “the bill only prohibited the performing of an abortion (with an exception for life of the mother). It specifically exempted women from prosecution: ‘A pregnant mother upon whom an abortion is performed or attempted shall not be guilty of violating this section’.”

The claim that “Gardner led a crusade to outlaw birth control”, made in both Udall ads, is based on Gardner’s past support for personhood measures in 2008 and 2010 that sought to define a fertilized egg as a person, thereby outlawing abortion and even threatening some forms of birth control.

When he announced last month he no longer supports personhood, Gardner explained that he only recently became aware of the impact on birth control (even though Ken Buck used the same explanation — and drew plenty of attention to the actual implications of personhood — toward the end of his own Senate race in 2010).

“At the time, Cory was not aware that the amendment, if adopted, had the potential to ban some forms of birth control,” said Gardner spokesman Alex Siciliano earlier this year. “He has never supported restricting access to birth control and recently announced that he had reconsidered his support of the personhood amendment for that reason.”