DENVER–Everyone knew Colorado Democrats would resume their successful “war on women” strategy of 2010, but two years later Republicans are showing they can give as good as they take.
Both Colorado and national Republicans have refused to cede the women’s vote, going on offense by tailoring their message to women voters while making the case that women have suffered more than men under President Obama’s economic plan.
A dramatic example comes in the 6th congressional district race, where Republican Rep. Mike Coffman has infuriated Democrats by making a central issue of Democratic challenger Joe Miklosi’s stance on the legal rights of accused rapists.
The Coffman campaign has run two ads criticizing Miklosi for his votes in the state legislature on public safety, including his vote against “Katie’s Law,” a 2009 bill requiring all adults arrested on felony offenses to give a DNA sample.
One ad accuses Miklosi of “siding with predators.” A second ad shows a woman jogging alone through a city park while the narrator intones, “Joe Miklosi voted against mandatory sentences for sex predators.”
“In the legislature, Miklosi said he was worried about the, quote, ‘civil liberties of the criminals,’” says the ad. “Joe Miklosi put the interests of criminals ahead of victims.”
The Miklosi campaign has been apoplectic over the ads, calling them inaccurate and misleading. “Both ads are despicable and you know it,” said Miklosi in his televised Oct. 19 debate with Coffman.
Miklosi swung back this week with an ad comparing Coffman to conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh. The ad, paid for by Miklosi and the Democratic Central Campaign Committee, shows a bulldozer with Coffman and Limbaugh’s images rolling over photos of women.
“Limbaugh-style Republicans are steamrolling Colorado families and Mike Coffman is leading the way,” says the television spot.
The DCCC has also run television ads blasting Coffman on abortion, birth control and equal pay. Democrat are airing similar ads aimed at Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, but Republicans are fighting back by focusing on the plight of women in the economic downturn.
“Women under Obama are earning less,” says a Romney campaign flyer that hit Colorado homes this week. “And even women in Obama’s White House are earning less than men.”
The Republican approach appears to be working. An Associated Press poll released Oct. 25 shows Romney pulling even with Obama at 47 to 47 percent after trailing by as many as 16 percentage points.
The Democrats’ “war on women” campaign was seen as the difference-maker in the tight 2010 Senate race, ultimately won in a squeaker by Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet. Democrats have expanded the tactic in 2012, hammering Republicans up and down the ticket on issues related to birth control, abortion and funding for Planned Parenthood.
That was one reason Debbie Brown, a former Coffman campaign manager, launched in 2011 the Colorado Women’s Alliance, which has blasted Democrats for, among other things, their “false scare tactics regarding birth control.”
She’s getting some pushback from Democrats. Her organization sent a cease-and-desist request Oct. 25 after the liberal Colorado Accountable Government Alliance mailed a flyer to Colorado Springs voters calling the alliance “a radical anti-birth control front group” that “wants to outlaw common forms of birth control.”
“The Colorado Women’s Alliance has never issued any statement opposing any woman’s personal choice to use birth control,” said Brown in a statement. “We are focused on discussing economic issues of importance to women in a substantive and meaningful way.”