CO-Sen: “Cory Gardner’s political relationship with the president reads like a tawdry romance novel”

The Atlantic has a great piece about how U.S. Senator Cory Gardner’s (R. CO) loyalty to Trump is going to cost him big time this year:

These days, Trump’s hold on the GOP base is so total that Republican incumbents around the country cross him at their peril. Tribal loyalty is the new normal. In Gardner’s case, cold numbers make the point. At the beginning of Trump’s term, Gardner was willing to take an independent tack. He pressed in vain for creation of a special committee on cybersecurity, in part to investigate Russian hacking of the 2016 election. He supported a bipartisan immigration-reform bill written by John McCain that his fellow Republicans soundly defeated. The Lugar Center, an independent nonprofit in Washington, D.C., that promotes cross-party cooperation, named him the fifth-most-bipartisan senator in the 115th Congress, which ended in 2018. But those stances hurt him with Republicans back home.

By January 2019, after Gardner broke with Trump and voted to end a 34-day government shutdown without providing financing for the president’s border wall, Trump’s favorable-unfavorable rating among Colorado Republicans was 84 percent to 15 percent, while Gardner’s was a comparatively weak 59 percent to 26 percent, according to the KOM Colorado poll.

In the most recent KOM survey, Trump’s favorability rating among Republicans dropped slightly, to 78–21, while Gardner’s rose, to 72–19. But that increase is not nearly enough to compensate for Gardner’s abysmal favorability rating among undeclared voters, now the largest slice of the Colorado electorate. Among those voters, Gardner scored just a 29 percent favorable rating, compared with 62 percent unfavorable.

So sticking with Trump may be the best available strategy for Gardner, even if it’s not sufficient to win in a general election in a state where Trump lost to Hillary Clinton by just less than five percentage points, and where Democrats won every statewide office in 2018. (Gardner’s office did not return requests for comment for this article.)

“I’m not sure there’s a better path for him at this moment,” says Curtis Hubbard, a partner at the Democratic consulting firm OnSight Public Affairs, part of the consortium that conducts the KOM poll. “Part of the calculation for the GOP nationwide is, they understand that there isn’t any path forward that doesn’t include kissing the ring. And it’s unfortunate, and it probably will result in Gardner’s being a one-term senator. I say it’s unfortunate for him because I think he’s a better Republican than he’s letting on.”

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John Hickenlooper

Andrew Romanoff