Cory Gardner-Mark Udall race gets ugly early: The Oil Slick vs. The Obamacare Ogre

With Republicans determined to take back control of the U.S. Senate by unseating a handful of vulnerable Dems and polls showing the race between Senator Mark Udall and challenger Representative Cory Gardner devolving into a dead heat, it's hardly a surprise that interest groups on both sides are pouring money into the campaign like a bunch of drunken sailors on shore leave, hitting the VIP Room at the Ooh-La-La Club. But given the sheer volume of attack ads already erupting across Colorado airwaves -- smears and counter-smears and anti-smear ads that look suspiciously like smears in their own right -- it's going to be a long, long road to November.

Put aside, for the moment, Gardner's dramatic turnabout on the subject of personhood, which Udall has been using to good advantage in his own campaign ads, presenting himself as a reliable champion of women's rights and no shifty-eyed flip-flopper like, uh, that other guy. The more costly battle these days seems to be the relentless effort of conservative funders to hold Udall responsible for all the shortcomings of the Affordable Care Act, while libs seek to paint Gardner as the sinister stooge of Big Oil.

Call it The Oil Slick vs. The Obamacare Ogre.

Much of the Udall savaging is coming courtesy of Americans for Prosperity, the virulently anti-ACA group that's received some hefty checks from billionaires David and Charles Koch. The group has been hammering away at Udall's support for Obamacare -- even running a photoshopped image of a grim Udall with the President in one ad that it quickly had to pull after families of the Aurora theater shooting victims protested that it had been taken out of context. The larger question, though, is how this particular whine is going to resonate in a state that actually had one of the more successful ACA rollouts, with a slower rate of increase in costs than before the law was implemented, undercutting some of the claims in this broadside:

Groups such as the League of Conservation Voters, which recently announced plans to spend close to $1 million torpedoing Gardner, have struck back with quick hits linking Gardner to the smoke and ooze of his big-energy backers. Like the Obamacare ads, there's a certain slippery truthiness to what's going on here. It's certainly correct to say that Gardner has long been a major recipient of cash from energy sector donors. But the direct connections to the Koch brothers implied in this screed is a bit of a stretch:

But hey, both sides are just warming up. Stay tuned. If you can stomach it.

More from our Politics archive circa February 2012: "Doug Lamborn's oil-shale move: Is he a cheap date for the energy industry?"

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