In multiple Senate races, Democrats are hammering Republican candidates over contraception and “Personhood,” a development that many observers interpret as a sign that Dems are now the ones on offense in the culture wars.

A new ad blitz from Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS nicely captures the emerging dynamic. Colorado GOP Senate candidate Cory Gardner has been treated to the most direct and sustained assault over Personhood of any GOP candidate, and a new Crossroads ad appears designed to defend Gardner against it with an appeal to female voters.

Yet the ad does this only by changing the subject. Here’s the spot, which is part of a new, $6 million campaign on Gardner’s behalf:

The ad never mentions Personhood or contraception. Instead, it obliquely refers to Dem attacks as “political scare tactics,” even as the featured women declare they want “a real conversation about issues that matter,” such as the economy. But, as Rebecca Berg writes, this ad actually “underscores the challenge Republicans have faced this year appealing to women voters.”

Now, it’s true that the economy is the top concern. But it’s obvious the Personhood movement (which declares that full human rights begin at the moment of fertilization) has, in fact, dogged Gardner. Last spring he disavowed his support for a previous state Personhood effort, admitting it “restricts contraception.” But Dems have pointed out that Gardner still supports a federal Personhood measure that would raise the same possibility of restrictions to some forms of contraception. Gardner has tried coming out for over-the-counter contraception, but he currently trails Dem Senator Mark Udall by double digits among women.

The broader story here, as Jonathan Martin details, is that after decades in which Republicans successfully exploited cultural wedge issues, “Democrats are now on the offensive in the culture wars.” Dems are now using social issues to “stoke concerns among moderate voters, especially women, and motivate their base.” As one conservative concedes, it is Republicans who are now out of touch with the country’s “cultural center” and must deal with the fact that the “center has shifted.”

To be clear, Republicans could still win the Senate in spite of this, thanks to the makeup of the map. But over the long term, as Ron Brownstein has explained, even if Dems are struggling to hold red state Senate seats, their embrace of cultural issues will continue to place the party on the side of an “expanding majority of public opinion” and a “younger, more urbanized, diverse, and secular” coalition that will give it an advantage in national elections. Meanwhile, these battles continue to “reaffirm the GOP’s identity as the champion of the forces most resistant to the profound demographic and cultural dynamics reshaping American life.” It’s not clear that simply changing the subject will cut it for much longer.


 * REPUBLICANS WILL GREEN-LIGHT OBAMA’S ISIS PLAN: The Post reports that House GOP leaders have settled on their strategy to give Obama what he wants on ISIS. They will hold separate votes on arming the Syrian rebels and on funding the government:

Rather than inserting the military plan into the government funding bill, it will be offered as an amendment. That will enable conservative hawks who oppose the spending bill to separately back the military plan, and some Republicans and Democrats to support the spending bill. Either way, both proposals pass with a handful of dissenting Republican voices.

It’s good that there will be a separate vote on arming the rebels. But, incredibly, we’re still not getting any vote on the American escalation itself until perhaps after the elections.

* OPINION IS POLARIZED ON ISIS: The new Pew poll finds broad support for Obama’s action against ISIS, but Aaron Blake ferrets out a key divide:

Republicans are angling for a more active role in combating the Islamic State, while Democrats are very much concerned about so-called “mission creep” — i.e. getting too involved and not being able to go back … Republicans and conservatives both say overwhelmingly that they worry about not going far enough; Democrats and liberals worry more about doing too much.

It will be interesting to see how this manifests itself if Congress does hold a real post-election debate and vote on the escalation. Also key: How will this division impact the coming presidential primaries?

* ANOTHER SENATE FORECAST SHIFTS TOWARDS DEMS: Nate Silver, who previously gave Republicans a 64 percent chance of taking the Senate, now gives them a 55 percent chance, observing that Dems have now drawn “almost even.” As Silver notes, this is due to ground gained in the purple states — Colorado, North Carolina, and Iowa. Key point:

Republicans may need to decide whether to consolidate their resources. It won’t help them if they lose each of Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire and North Carolina by a couple of percentage points — and in the process blow a state like Arkansas.

It’s still early, but at some point, if these trends continue, it will be worth watching for whether outside GOP-aligned groups begin scaling down spending in those states.

* DEMS HOLD EDGE IN IOWA: Even Republicans now admit that Dem Bruce Braley seems to have a slight advantage over GOPer Joni Ernst:

“He’s got the momentum…It could still go either way but Braley has the edge right now,” said former Iowa GOP Speaker Brent Siegrist. “They’ve been beating her up a lot on the air.” … Republicans also privately concede that Democrats have a much better field operation in the Hawkeye State.

The polling average puts Braley up by 1.6 percentage points, so it’s still very close.

* TODAY’S SENATE FORECASTS: The Washington Post’s Election Lab has Dems very narrowly favored to win the Senate for what I believe is the first time. The New York Times’ Upshot gives Republicans a 53 percent of winning. The more poll-focused (and less “fundamentals” oriented) models from Sam Wang and HuffPollster continue to give Dems the edge.

* DEMS OUTRAISE GOP ONCE AGAIN: The DSCC outraised the NRSC in August, leaving Dems with $25.3 million in cash on hand versus $19.9 million for Republicans. It’s hard to know whether this will matter. But combined with the cash advantage enjoyed by incumbents such as Senator Kay Hagan, it could conceivably give Dems a bit more flexibility on the tough decisions over where to allocate funds in the final stretch.

* AND MORE GOOD NEWS ABOUT OBAMACARE: In the first federal measure of the impact of the ACA on the nation’s uninsured, the well-regarded National Health Interview survey reports:

Federal researchers reported on Tuesday that the number of Americans without health insurance had declined substantially in the first quarter of this year….The number of uninsured Americans fell by about 8 percent to 41 million people in the first quarter of this year, compared with 2013.

Caveat: We need to see how coming open-enrollment periods go. But there’s no longer any doubt that the law is succeeding at a core goal of dramatically expanding coverage — which won’t stop Republicans who are trapped in October 2013 of hyping “cancelled plans,” of course.