Times Passes Along Scare Tactics of Western Democrats

Kirk Johnson on the Democrats' bringing up "wedge issue" like abortion to keep Democratic voters on their side come November: "But whether Mr. Buck is out of touch, or exactly in touch with his supporters, he has staked out some very conservative positions."

On Thursday, political reporter Kirk Johnson weighed in on the Colorado Senate race pitting incumbent Democrat Michael Bennett against conservative, Tea Party-backed Ken Buck, revealing how desperate Democrats are using so-called wedge issues like abortion to try to convince voters to keep the party in office: "In Tight Races, Democratic Ads Put Focus on Abortion Rights."

Johnson has a knack for finding examples of conservative decline in the West, real and hypothetical. This time out he committed a little labeling bias.

But whether Mr. Buck is out of touch, or exactly in touch with his supporters, he has staked out some very conservative positions. He has suggested, for example, that Social Security and health care could perhaps be better handled by the private sector. (Though he later said he opposed privatizing Social Security.)

He also endorsed a ballot measure, Amendment 62, which would confer legal rights to "every human being from the beginning of biological development." That endorsement opened him up to charges that he wants to make some common forms of contraception illegal, including birth control pills, which can hinder the attachment of embryos to the uterine wall.

Mr. Buck, a county district attorney north of Denver who is backed by the Tea Party, recently withdrew his endorsement of the "personhood" amendment, and now takes no position. His spokesman, Mr. Loftus, said at least three times in a telephone interview that Mr. Buck did not want to ban birth control pills.

The Times rarely if ever chides a Democratic politician for staking out a "very liberal position."

Johnson later linked abortion rights to female political clout, as if there's a strong correlation between the women's vote and abortion rights (there's not).

But the new fight over abortion and the voting clout of women also says a lot about Colorado itself - and its contradictions.

It was among the first states in the nation, in 1967, to loosen restrictions on abortion. Then, in 1984, it became the first state to ban the use of state money for abortions in a referendum.

Women have achieved some power in politics here, but never the top jobs. Colorado currently has the highest percentage of women in its legislature in the nation - 38 percent - but has never had a woman serve as governor or United States senator.

New York Times/CBS News national polls also say that the political divide between men and women - more men than women gravitating toward Republican candidates, a pattern dating back to Ronald Reagan's election as president in 1980 - is bigger than average heading into November. And between Mr. Bennet and Mr. Buck, that gender gap is immense. A CNN poll released in late September said that men were 15 percentage points more likely than women to support Mr. Buck, while women were 16 percentage points more likely than men to prefer Mr. Bennet.