Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner and his national Republican allies launched TV ads Tuesday attacking former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, the front-runner in this month's Democratic primary for Gardner's seat.
The 30-second ads go after Hickenlooper on two fronts with sharply different tones.
Gardner's light-hearted ad mocks the one-time presidential candidate's protests that he wasn't cut out to be a senator, while a scathing National Republican Senatorial Committee ad blasts Hickenlooper for a recent ruling that he violated Colorado ethics law and defied a subpoena in the process.
The Hickenlooper campaign swung back, calling the ads futile attempts to take the polish off a candidate polls show holds a commanding lead over Gardner and a "desperate ploy" to distract from the incumbent's record.
Hickenlooper faces a June 30 primary agains former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, who has also routinely criticized his rival on the same topics.
In the Gardner ad, the senator plays a therapist listening as a TV monitor positioned on a leather couch play several clips of Hickenlooper explaining during his White House campaign last year why he didn't want to jump to a run for the Senate.
"Being a senator would be meaningful, but I’d hate it," Hickenlooper says. "I don’t think I’m cut out for it ... the Senate doesn’t attract me at this point, it just doesn’t attract me. ... It wouldn’t bring me any kind of satisfaction or delight."
Notebook in hand, Gardner to the camera and renders his verdict: "This guys got a lot to work through here. He thinks it’s all about him."
Adds Gardner: "I work hard to be affective with both parties. To do this job, you probably need to want this job."
A Hickenlooper campaign spokeswoman ripped the ad and its premise.
“Sen. Gardner’s offensive new ad is a desperate ploy to distract from his record of voting to undermine access to health coverage — including mental health care," said Alyssa Roberts in a statement.
"Meanwhile, John Hickenlooper expanded health care to half-a-million Coloradans, and that record of getting things done is exactly why he’s the strongest candidate to defeat Gardner.”
State Sen. Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood, tweeted her review of the ad: "Mental health care isn’t a joke. Your ad is."
The NRSC ad blasts Hickenlooper for rulings by Colorado's Independent Ethics Commission that he violated a constitutional ban on gifts when he accepted a rides on a private plane and in a fancy limousine during two trips to promote the state when he was governor.
In a series of brief excerpts from newscasts, the ad notes that Hickenlooper was the "first person ever" to be held in contempt by the commission, after he snubbed a subpoena to appear via teleconference for a June 4 hearing.
The NRSC — the campaign arm of the Senate Republicans — also unveiled a website called Hiding Hickenlooper that rounds up attacks the GOP has mounted against the Democrat.
Hickenlooper's campaign manager dismissed the ads in a memo circulated to the press Tuesday morning.
"Every public poll taken since John Hickenlooper entered the race shows he holds a double-digit lead over Senator Cory Gardner – which is why today, Gardner and national Republicans are launching another round of misleading attacks against John," wrote ME Smith. "John is well positioned heading into the primary, and also the strongest candidate to defeat Senator Gardner in November."
Hickenlooper and Romanoff have also been advertising heavily on the state's broadcast and cable channels.
The two Democrats meet tonight at 6 p.m. for their third and final debate before ballots are due. The first hour airs live on Denver7, and the entire 90-minute debate can be heard on Colorado Public Radio stations.