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With the finish line approaching and key races stalemated, two new polls—in Colorado showing Democrat Mark Udall in trouble, and in Kentucky giving Republican Mitch McConnell the edge among women by a single point—hinted at a surprising development: that the gender gap, traditionally favoring Democrats, might be flipping in favor of the Republicans.

Had the “security moms” come back? They were the women voters who turned to the GOP in the past when things got unsettled internationally. There were also “NASCAR moms” and “soccer moms,” other designations that tended to favor Republicans, as do married women today.

It’s single women that Democrats count on to provide a winning margin, and between Ebola and ISIS, and another school shooting to jangle their nerves, women could be searching for a safer harbor. Republicans speculated that women are tired of the Democrats’ relentless focus on reproductive choice and health. Some Republicans, most notably Cory Gardner in Colorado, have been able to neutralize the Democrats’ advantage on those issues by presenting a more moderate image.

Gardner says he will vote against a personhood amendment on the Colorado ballot even though he is a co-sponsor of a virtually identical “Life Begins at Conception” bill in Congress. He says he made a mistake in twice before supporting the state ballot measure, which like its federal counterpart bans abortion in all instances together with some forms of contraception. It failed in 2008 and 2012.

Refuting critics who say he is anti-contraception, Gardner is calling for over-the-counter sale of birth control pills. His change of position has been widely mocked, including on Stephen Colbert’s show, when the faux-conservative comedian did a magic trick to make the federal personhood bill go away. But Gardner’s strategy has worked in Colorado, where the race is about turnout, and not persuasion, says Peter Hanson, a political science professor at the University of Denver.

“A pool of women are not being motivated to vote because Republicans have done such a successful job neutralizing fears that Cory Gardner is hostile to women’s reproductive rights,” says Hanson.

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