Between now and New Year’s Eve, Colorado Pols is recapping the top ten stories in Colorado politics from the 2012 election year.
Two years ago, one of the closest U.S. Senate races in the country was decided, in some of the clearest terms we’ve ever seen, by women voters in Colorado. The record on women’s issues of Weld County DA Ken Buck, who narrowly defeated former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton in a bitter GOP primary, was the single most significant factor in Buck’s loss to appointed incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet in a year that otherwise trended heavily Republican. Bennet’s 17-point victory with women voters, overcoming many other demographics where Buck prevailed, has subsequently become a model for defeating Republicans in other competitive states.
As 2012 revealed once again, Ken Buck’s problems from 2010 are systemic and unresolved within the Republican Party. In the national and local political spotlight this year was a Republican Party intent on branding itself as overtly hostile to women, on a range of issues that most women no longer consider debatable.
A good example was provided, at the national and local level, by the response to testimony in Washington by a law student at Georgetown University, Sandra Fluke. After Fluke’s testimony in favor of contraceptive insurance coverage, nationally-syndicated radio host Rush Limbaugh called Fluke a “slut,” resulting in nationwide outrage. Colorado Sen. Greg Brophy jumped to Limbaugh’s defense as the controversy raged and Limbaugh issued a rare apology, saying he too doesn’t “want to buy your booze, pay for your spring break or your birth control.”
After Democrats and their allies put Brophy’s name up in lights, his colleagues in the Senate Republican minority held a jaw-droppingly absurd rally on the west steps of the state capitol, where they defended Brophy, and compared contraceptive insurance coverage to the Nazis, “mind control,” and (our favorite) King Henry VIII. Needless to say, this helped provide local Democrats with bountiful evidence to support their claim, without any hyperbole, that Republicans were waging a “war on women.”
By the time the presidential campaign was in full swing this summer, Colorado Democrats and allies were hard at work planting the “war on women” meme on the GOP presidential ticket. To some extent with Mitt Romney but especially targeting Romney’s running mate Rep. Paul Ryan, hard-line positions on abortion and contraception played a major role in alienating women voters from the Republican presidential ticket–just as was done to Ken Buck in 2010.
From Buck in 2010 to Ryan, Todd Akin, and Richard Mourdock in 2012, recent history is full of examples of conservative candidates brought to ruin by their unpalatable views on women’s issues. After this election, there was a brief attempt here in Colorado to downplay the significance of women voters–based on faulty information and, in our view, wishful thinking.
If Republicans in Colorado and elsewhere do not learn this lesson, and meaningfully change course, we see many more Ken Bucks in their future.