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In Colorado, Democrats take their first really hard loss of the night

Marc Piscotty/Getty Images

The AP and Fox News are calling Colorado for Cory Gardner. Right now, the Udall campaign is disputing the results. But the voting data is consistent with a Gardner win. Assuming Gardner does take the seat — which is what the polling predicted in recent weeks — this is very bad news for Democrats.

So far tonight, Democrats have lost seats in South Dakota, West Virginia, Montana, and Arkansas. All those losses were expected — and, for the Democratic Senate majority, survivable. But losing Colorado makes keeping the Senate very, very hard.

And Colorado is not a loss Democrats can easily explain away. The state went for Obama in both 2008 and 2012. Democrat Michael Bennet — who is running the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee this year — even held on in the Republican wave of 2010. It isn't a red state. If Democrats are losing seats in Colorado that's a bad sign for their hopes elsewhere.

The Colorado race had two unique features. One was that Udall focused like a laser on the "war on women" theme. He argued, almost endlessly, that Gardner wanted to ban all sales of birth control — a charge that Gardner denied, and countered by releasing a proposal for birth control to be sold over the counter (which is, for the record, an excellent idea). If Udall loses what was clearly a winnable race, it suggests that perhaps the war-on-women theme wasn't such a good move.

The other interesting wrinkle in the Colorado race was that the state had recently moved to a vote-by-mail system. The Democrats who passed the plan thought it would help them hold the younger, more diverse voters who show up for presidential elections but tend to melt away during midterms. But it looks like it really boosted voting among senior citizens, who tend to vote Republican.

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