Rep. Cory Gardner was endorsed by the Denver Post on Friday. The publication endorsed his challenger, Sen. Mark Udall, back in 2008.

Story highlights

Denver Post announced its endorsement for Rep. Cory Gardner

Says Congress is in "need of fresh leadership, energy and ideas"

Mentions that Sen. Mark Udall "is not perceived as a leader in Washington"

The race is contested and currently rated as a tossup by many pollsters

Washington CNN  — 

The Denver Post Editorial Board endorsed Republican House Rep. Cory Gardner on Friday, just six years after it backed Gardner’s opponent Democratic Sen. Mark Udall for the position.

“Congress is hardly functioning these days. It can’t pass legislation that is controversial and it often can’t even pass legislation on which there is broad agreement. Its reputation is abysmal, and even its members rarely dispute the popular indictment,” the editorial board said in a statement.

“It needs fresh leadership, energy and ideas, and Cory Gardner can help provide them in the U.S. Senate.”

The surprising decision could give Gardner the significant edge he needs to pull ahead of Udall in the closely contested race. Just last week, a CBS/New York Times poll found Gardner six percentage points ahead of Udall. Real Clear Politics rules the race a “toss up.”

Udall is starting to trail his GOP opponent, two polls say

Earlier this week, both candidates argued over immigration, foreign policy, reproductive rights, and the Ebola outbreak. The board sided with Gardner, saying that his ideas largely reflect Colorado’s interests, especially in the next two years.

“Gardner has sound ideas on tax reform that could help the economy take off and has expressed willingness to compromise on immigration despite a fairly hard line over the years. And his stance on defense spending appears closer to those of Rep. Mike Coffman, who favors restraint, than to those in the GOP who view the military as sacrosanct,” the statement said.

Yet the Denver Post went defensive against Gardner’s conservative opinions on same-sex marriage and abortion rights. His position on the controversial issues didn’t deter their endorsement, saying that the issues will likely be irrelevant soon since the Supreme Court is establishing an acceptable norm.

Will same-sex marriage become a 2014 issue?

The editorial board called Udall “a fine man with good intentions” and admitted that their views align closer with him than Gardner. However, they say that Udall has not been a prominent fighter on current issues, suggesting that Gardner’s growing leadership in the House “would very likely match” Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet’s influence in the upper chamber.

They did praise Udall for being an active member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, particularly when he spoke out against the government for spying on the public.

The Denver Post endorsed President Obama in 2012 and 2008, but did not make any specific mentions against his policies as a reason for supporting Gardner.

Obama lines go straight into GOP attack ads for Senate