Wednesday, November 17, 2010

How Abortion Cost Ken Buck the U.S. Senate Race

Ken Buck's anti-abortion stance cost him the U.S. Senate seat in Colorado.

True, Buck had other problems. He made a few gaffes, as when he jokingly said he should win because he he doesn't wear high heels (a response to his primary opponent's many references to gender), and when he likened homosexuality to alcoholism. The left unfairly attacked Buck for his prosecutorial work on a gun case and a rape case. Moreover, the Democrats did a good job getting out the vote for Michael Bennet.

But Buck's anti-abortion position made more difference than any of those other things, alienating many women and independent voters. And it was only in the context of Buck's perceived antagonism toward women's right to control their own bodies that the "high heels" comment and the claims about a mishandled rape case gained traction.

A couple of claims Buck simply could not rebut, because they were true: he opposes abortion even in cases of rape and incest, and he initially endorsed Amendment 62, the so-called "personhood" measure, even though he later backtracked and said he wasn't taking positions on state ballot measures.

The result? Bennet "led Buck with female voters, 56 percent to 40 percent, according to the [exit] polls, and... Bennet beat Buck among unaffiliated voters in the polls, 52 percent to 41 percent." Moreover, "Bennet also did better among Republicans than Buck did among Democrats in the polls." My guess is that the number of Republican women to voted for Bennet or at least declined to vote for Buck was substantial.

Buck whined after the election, "I wasn't going to derail my message to have an election decided on abortion, or any social issue, for that matter." But when you endorse a ballot measure that would totally ban abortion (along with various forms of birth control and fertility treatments), what you've done precisely is make the election largely about abortion.

Consider some of the other relevant news about the issue.

"Gov. Bill Ritter... agreed [with Republican Mike Rosen] that Republican Senate candidate Ken Buck’s hard-line stance on abortion helped cost him the election."

"Ken Buck Hit Hard On Birth Control, Abortion In New DSCC Ad."

Bennet ran partly on "protecting [women's] rights to safe, legal abortion."

"Rape, incest victims rally against Buck."

"Ken Buck: Opponents rally rape and incest survivors to decry his abortion policy."

"Dem ads on reproductive rights aim to sharpen Sen. Bennet's appeal to women."

Bennet "seems to be the only candidate that's not anti-abortion... I'm not really excited about him as a candidate -- he's kind of overspent in Washington."

Or consider a first and second ad hammering Buck on his anti-abortion stance and related issues.

Or consider a few of the flyers mailed to my wife, an unaffiliated voter. These mailers, paid for by Planned Parenthood Action Fund, take some unfair shots at Buck but effectively hammer him on abortion. And they clearly link Buck to Amendment 62 and note that Bennet opposed the measure.

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