Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Andrew Romanoff has turned his primary opponent's famous TV ad about going negative into an attack ad of his own in a spot that starts airing statewide Friday.
The 30-second Romanoff ad features footage from a 2010 ad that John Hickenlooper ran when the then-Denver mayor was running for governor, portraying the politician taking repeated showers with his clothes on because, he says, he "can't stand negative ads."
The old ad is intercut with a list of charges Romanoff has leveled at Hickenlooper, as the narrator says the former two-term governor will "never wash out the stain" of campaign contributions from oil and gas executives and a recent determination by a state ethics panel that Hickenlooper violated a constitutional ban on gifts and was held in contempt.
"Scrub harder, Hick," the narrator says. Then, as a headline describing Hickenlooper's recent apology for comparing busy politicians to galley slaves appears on screen, the narrator adds: "Whoa. We can’t take this kind of risk if we’re going to beat Cory Gardner."
The ad, part of a $175,000 media buy, airs statewide on broadcast and cable through the primary, a Romanoff campaign spokesman said.
Romanoff and Hickenlooper are vying for the chance to challenge Gardner, the Republican incumbent seeking a second term. Primary ballots went in the mail last week and are due June 30.
Former U.S. Rep. John Salazar, who switched his endorsement from Romanoff to Hickenlooper earlier this week, panned Romanoff's latest attack in a statement to Colorado Politics.
“You don’t build yourself up by tearing another man down," Salazar said. "That’s why I am supporting John Hickenlooper. He doesn’t do negative campaigning against his friends.”
State Rep. Bri Buentello, D-Pueblo, called Romanoff's ad an "affront to Democratic values."
"If he has any decency, he would take this ad down today," she said in a statement. "We do not sling mud at each other. He and I may have legitimate policy differences, but when you resort to baseless personal attacks, it shows you cannot win on your own merits.”
The original shower ad, produced by Democratic media consultants Mark Putnam and Steve Murphy, helped cement Hickenlooper's brand as a kind of anti-politician, following a series of ads aired during his 2003 run for Denver mayor that highlighted the former brewpub owner's quirky tastes in clothes and urban transportation.
“I’m John Hickenlooper, and I guess I’m not a very good politician because I can’t stand negative ads. Every time I see one, I feel like I need to take a shower," Hickenlooper says in the ad, which was dubbed the best positive political ad of the year by Washington Post columnist Chris Cillizza.
“Pitting one group against another or one part of Colorado against another doesn’t help anyone,” Hickenlooper says as the ad concludes. “And, besides, we need the water.”
A Romanoff pollster told Colorado Politics this week that voters still remember the shower ad and associate it with Hickenlooper, remarkable for a decade-old ad.