Democratic U.S. Senate candidate John Hickenlooper mocks his Republican opponent in a new TV ad released Tuesday that asks which version of U.S. Sen Cory Gardner will show up at a series of debates set to kick off Friday.
In the 30-second spot, Hickenlooper moves back and forth on a debate stage between two cardboard cutouts of Gardner — one dressed up in a suit and tie, the other wearing jeans and a quilted vest — alleging the incumbent's rhetoric and his record don't always match.
"This is the Cory Donald Trump said was with him 100%," Hickenlooper says. "But this guy wants us to believe he’s independent."
The former two-term governor also blasts Gardner for "posing as an environmentalist" after voting to roll back environmental regulations.
Chris Hansen, the Gardner campaign's general consultant, wasn't impressed with the new ad.
"Hick is so weird," Hansen tweeted. "No matter how hard they try they just can’t unweird the guy."
The ad's Gardner replicas are a nod to "Cardboard Cory," a two-dimensional rendition of the senator designed by left-leaning activists who were frustrated when Gardner stopped holding in-person town halls in 2017.
Katie Farnan, an organizer with Indivisible Front Range Resistance and the creator of the original Cardboard Cory, told Colorado Politics she was thrilled to see the ad, calling it a "good homage to the work we've done over four years."
Hickenlooper and Gardner meet for their first of four debates Friday in Pueblo. They're also set to take part in televised debates Oct. 9 in Denver and Oct. 13 in Fort Collins.
Gardner has criticized Hickenlooper for declining invitations to a handful of other debates, including Club 20's traditional kickoff to the fall political season at the Western Slope civic group's September meeting.
Colorado Politics and 9News are among the sponsors of the Oct. 13 debate, which will take place as Colorado voters are beginning to return ballots.
The Senate candidates are also taping a debate this weekend that's scheduled to be broadcast in Spanish on Oct. 6 on Telemundo's network of stations in Colorado.
Recent polling shows Hickenlooper leading Gardner, though the race appears to be tightening as the Nov. 3 election approaches.
The Cook Political Report last week moved the race from its toss-up column to "lean Democratic," citing Hickenlooper's consistent lead in polls and Gardner's announcement he supports Republican plans to fill the Supreme Court vacancy created by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death before the election.