Democratic officials were broadly disappointed with the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby contraception ruling yesterday, recognizing it as a major setback for women, reproductive rights, and workers' rights. Democratic campaign officials, however, immediately recognized an opportunity.
To appreciate why, look no further than the competitive U.S. Senate race in Colorado.
Incumbent Sen. Mark Udall (D) is in the midst of a tough fight against Rep. Cory Gardner (R), who's trying to appear more moderate
after years of far-right culture-war fights. Udall and his allies have hammered Gardner for months on one important issue: the Republican congressman's support for "Personhood" measures that would ban abortions and many forms of birth control.
The Democratic offensive has put Gardner on the offensive -- so much so that the conservative congressman decided to flip-flop, denounce his own position on one of his signature issues, and declare that he actually supports expanding access to contraception.
"The court made the right decision today to protect religious liberty and the First Amendment. The Food and Drug Administration now needs to move quickly to make oral contraceptives available to adults without a prescription."
So, on the one hand, Gardner says he supports more access to contraception. On the other hand, Gardner also says bosses should be able to restrict contraception access for millions of American women. These two positions do not go together well.
Indeed, the far-right congressman is simultaneously arguing that he's delighted with the Supreme Court's anti-contraception ruling and he's equally enthusiastic about being pro-contraception.
Why are Democrats excited about this as a campaign issue? Ask yourself, does Cory Gardner really want to spend the next four months talking about his increasingly contradictory position on birth control? Thanks to his conservative allies on the Supreme Court, the Republican lawmaker probably won't have a choice.
Zachary Roth noted
that this is hardly limited to Colorado.
Not two hours after the decision was announced, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee blasted out its opening salvo in that effort. "Today's Hobby Lobby decision is a grim reminder of how much is at stake in this election," Regan Page, a committee spokeswoman, said. "Nearly every Republican Senate candidate in the country supports radical measures that would block birth control and roll back women's health care rights even further than today's ruling." [...] Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who chairs the Democratic National Committee, piled on in her own statement. "It is no surprise that Republicans have sided against women on this issue as they have consistently opposed a woman's right to make her own health care decisions," she said, adding, "In the wake of this dangerous precedent set by the Supreme Court, Democrats in Congress will continue to fight on the issues of importance to women and their families."
In Ohio, Democrats went on the offensive against Gov. John Kasich (R). In Texas, gubernatorial hopeful Wendy Davis (D) used the ruling as a hook of her own: "We need to trust women to make their own healthcare decisions – not corporations, the Supreme Court, or Greg Abbott."
Yesterday afternoon, a Democratic source who works for one of the campaign committees sent me a link to this Media Matters piece
. "Conservative Media Celebrate Hobby Lobby Decision By Mocking Women's Access To Contraception." My contact's message read, "Keep on talking."
As a substantive matter, it's obvious Democrats wanted the ruling to go the other way. But as an electoral matter, Democrats would love nothing more than to spend the next few months talking about Republican support for contraception restrictions. Thanks to five conservative justices, that just became a lot easier.