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Sen. Mark Udall: GOP candidate's ad about my family "just low"

Grasping at straws to cling onto his Colorado seat, Democratic Sen. Mark Udall on Wednesday laid into an ad in which his Republican challenger Cory Gardner calls the congressional veteran "a real nice guy."

Boasting the favorite populist mantle for Washington outsiders, Garner in the ad says Udall is "a nice guy who will never change the Senate; he is the Senate. Eighteen years in politics, and he's got two cousins who are senators, too. Mark Udall's dad even ran for president.

"My dad," Gardner goes on, standing in what appears to be a toolshed, "well - he sells tractors, just like my granddad. And I'm darn proud of that."

Udall, who's tumbled in recent polls, took umbrage with the spot, arguing that while Gardner "ought to be" proud of his heritage, the race "should be about who can better represent the great state of Colorado, not personal attacks on our families." Though the ad makes unnamed references to Udall's cousins, Sens. Tom Udall, D-New Mexico and Mike Lee, R-Utah, it's the mention of Udall's late father, Mo - who built a storied career in Congress and mounted a White House bid in 1976 - that riled most riled Udall.

"To see Congressman Gardner decide to go after my late father and members of my family in a negative ad," he said. "That's just low, no matter what 'generation' Congressman Gardner claims to represent. I'm proud of my dad. He was as Western and bipartisan and commonsense as a man could get."

Other Democrats levied harsher charges: "It's disgusting that Congressman Gardner would stoop as low as attacking Senator Mark Udall's late father and it is beneath a candidate running for the U.S. Senate," said Justin Barasky, a spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. "Congressman Gardner should apologize to Sen. Udall and his family and pull the ad off the air."

Udall's father has played into the Centennial State's midterm race more than probably either candidate expected. While heavyweight Republican Sen. John McCain barnstorms the country in favor of conservatives in close races, he's made it clear he'll actively abstain from throwing his support behind Gardner because of his longtime friendship with the Udall clan.

Asked to clarify whether he was staying out of Colorado because of his history with Mark Udall, McCain told AZ Central, "and his father, yes." The Arizona senator's 2002 memoir "Worth the Fighting For" includes a chapter titled "Mo," in which he depicts the elder Udall as his mentor on Capitol Hill and acclaims, "I loved Mo Udall. Absolutely loved him."

As for critics of the ad referencing Mo Udall, though, Gardner's campaign manager Chris Hansen bemusedly assessed: "This is rich. For six months Sen. Udall has done nothing but wage the nastiest campaign in America and now he is upset that we are calling him a nice guy? Mark Udall has been in Washington for so long and is so partisan that he can't even take a compliment when it comes from the other party."

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