Just in time for the dog days of summer, the November election has arrived in Colorado.
Ads already are flooding TV stations and social media platforms for the fall Senate matchup between Sen. Cory Gardner and his challenger, former Gov. John Hickenlooper, with nary a break since last week’s Democratic primary — itself a costly contest — settled that nomination.
New 30-second spots released Tuesday by the candidates’ campaigns will air on broadcast and cable TV stations in six-figure buys. In one, Gardner touts his role in passing a major bipartisan public-lands bill last month. In the other, Hickenlooper takes the Trump administration to task for its latest legal challenge of the Affordable Care Act.
Starting Wednesday, a national digital ad sponsored by the Lincoln Project PAC, formed by Republicans who oppose President Donald Trump’s re-election, will peg Gardner and several other GOP senators as enablers of Trump. According to TV station disclosures, an ad aimed at boosting Gardner will begin running the same day as part of a major buy made by One Nation, a dark-money group allied with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
The fall campaign season usually gets underway closer to Labor Day, but political observers expect the all-out ad blitz to continue as Democrats fix on Gardner’s seat as a key takeover target on their way to a potential Senate majority. Recent polls show Hickenlooper leading in Colorado.
In May, Cross Screen Media and Advertising Analytics, which tracks political ad spending, projected that spending in Senate races nationally would reach nearly $1 billion this year. Colorado’s race alone is expected to generate a hefty share of that — more than $100 million — according to an earlier report by those organizations.
Hickenlooper, who handily defeated Democrat Andrew Romanoff in the June 30 primary, doesn’t mention Gardner in his new TV ad. He contrasts Trump’s attempts to dismantle the health care law through legal challenges with Colorado’s expansion of health insurance coverage among its residents while he was governor.
“In the Senate, I want to stop the surprise medical bills, lower the cost of prescription drugs and make sure you can’t lose coverage if you get COVID-19,” he says.
Gardner’s new ad takes a positive tone, exalting in a clear recent win in Washington. It shows the senator and his family outside their Yuma home, loading an SUV for a summer road trip after “we’ve been locked up for months,” he says, referring to the pandemic.
He points to his role in the recent Senate passage of the Great American Outdoors Act, which he wrote and championed along with Sen. Michael Bennet, a Colorado Democrat.
“Whether you ski or fish or just go for a hike,” Gardner says, “Coloradans live in national forests and parks.” He says he “made it my job” to end Congress’ longstanding neglect.
The bill, which Trump has said he’ll sign, will fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund and end a mounting maintenance backlog at national parks, including in this state. Gardner received credit from advocacy groups for helping get it passed — even if some question his commitment to the environment based on other votes and positions, as reflected in the Colorado Sierra Club’s criticism of the ad Tuesday.
The ads by the One Nation Republican-allied group and by the anti-Trump Lincoln Project weren’t yet available Tuesday evening. The Lincoln Project provided a script and said it planned a “significant push” online.
Targeting Gardner and several other Senate colleagues in tight races, it urges voters to remember that “every time they had a choice between America and Trump, they chose Trump.”
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