Several Republican candidates in the year’s most competitive Senate races have begun their fall sprint to Election Day, not by embracing Tea Party-fueled conservatism but by defensively tacking leftward.
Let’s start in Colorado, site of a strategic GOP retreat in the “War on Women.” The Republican backtracking there is being done by Rep. Cory Gardner, following withering attacks by Democrats on his past support for “personhood amendments” that bestow rights to fertilized human eggs and effectively ban some forms of birth control. Gardner released an ad claiming he would make access to “the pill … cheaper and easier” than would his opponent, Sen. Mark Udall, by ending the need for prescriptions. This tactic quickly spread. In his first debate with Sen. Kay Hagan, North Carolina Republican nominee Thom Tillis embraced the same plan.
In Arkansas, meanwhile, Republican Rep. Tom Cotton is wilting under Democratic pressure on the minimum wage. Cotton is challenging Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor. Like nearly all GOP politicians, but not like most voters, Cotton is opposed to raising the federal minimum from its current level of $7.25. But on Election Day, Arkansans will vote on a ballot initiative to raise the state minimum to $8.50, squeezing Cotton to the breaking point. Put on the spot in a radio interview Friday, he said he would vote for the state measure, though he avoided answering a follow-up question about whether that means he would support raising the federal minimum to the same level.
Alaska Republican Dan Sullivan this week aired a new ad that practically makes him seem like a Democrat: embracing teachers and excoriating Wall Street. A seventh-grade Anchorage teacher tells the story of how Sullivan, as state attorney general, helped shore up the public fund that managed her pension and “forc[ed] a Wall Street firm to pay for their malpractice, returning almost half a billion dollars into the retirement fund for Alaskans.” No complaints about government shakedowns. No teacher-bashing. And also of note: no mention of the word “Republican.”