CO-Sen: Cory Gardner's (R) War Against The ACA Propelled Him To Power But Now It Will Be His Demise

Just a friendly reminder that health care is still going to be a big issue in this upcoming election. The Colorado Times Recorder has a great piece about U.S. Senator Cory Gardner (R. CO) rode into Congress in 2010 on the Tea Party wave by waging war against the Affordable Care Act. It also highlights how in 2014, when Gardner defeated U.S. Senator Mark Udall (D. CO), the ACA was still very unpopular in Colorado. But 2014 seems like a distant memory now because not only has Trump helped make Obamacare popular, a whole bunch of new voters in Colorado now rely on it and they are gunning for Gardner:

Obamacare Now a Liability for Gardner

Gardner, who did not return a call to discuss this article, goes into the election year with the popularity of Obamacare near its highest point since it was enacted, with 52% of adults viewing it favorably.

That’s in contrast a 37% favorability rating for the senator himself, close to its lowest ever, when Gardner was elected to the Senate in November 2014.

“In 2014, we were only a few years into Obamacare,” Chris Keating, of the polling firm Keating Research, told the Colorado Times Recorder. “Six more years after that, people are thinking, ‘This is a good thing that young people and people with pre-existing conditions get insurance and that the number of uninsured has been brought down.'”

“We just have a different dynamic this year when it comes to Obamacare,” said Keating.

Keating points out that about a million more voters will be casting ballots this year in Colorado than when Gardner was elected senator in 2014, and most of them are young and unaffiliated—and likely to vote in November. And these voters, ages 18 to 49, support keeping Obamacare by a 2 to 1 margin; people who are 18 to 34 want Obamacare by 70%, said Keating, citing his Colorado poll in 2017.

In addition, Colorado now has more Democrats registered to vote than Republicans.

“Republicans had a five-point advantage in 2014,” said Keating. “That’s 100,000 votes Gardner had in the bank just from that difference. When he goes into this election, it’s going to be plus two [percentage points] Democrats. So Democrats are going to have that in the bank, plus they’ve got the unaffiliated voters. There’s no conceivable path I see for Gardner.”

While Obamacare will likely hurt Gardner, Keating emphasizes that Trump is a bigger problem for him.

“Number one, this election is going to be a referendum with Trump,” said Keating, pointing out that hostility toward Obama himself, not just Obamacare, drove voters to Gardner in 2014. “The number one thing is, Gardner’s association with Donald Trump, and the fact that he has stood by him.”

Republican activists worry about Gardner in the next election, to be sure, but some say, if any candidate can win this year, it’s Gardner, despite voting 90% of the time with Trump.

“I think Cory is going to eke it out; I really do, at this point, I really do,” said longtime GOP operative Dick Wadhams said this month, due to “the quality of candidate [Gardner] is going to be.” 

Gardner knows that his past record on constantly trying to repeal the ACA is going to hurt him. That’s why he’s been trying to erase his past on his own campaign website:

In a little-noticed change to the “Health Care” section of his new re-election campaign website, U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) has removed any mention of his stance in favor of repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare.

That’s a major shift in campaign tactics for Gardner, who made killing Obamacare a major theme of his political campaigns, first for the U.S. House in 2010 and then for the U.S. Senate in 2014.

“Cory has been a leader in modernizing our health care system, lowering costs, and improving the quality of care for Coloradans,” states the new website, which was changed sometime since November . “He understands any health care plan needs to cover pre-existing conditions and must be a part of any plan he will support.”

Contrast this to Gardner’s stance on health care when he was running against Democrat Mark Udall in 2014, when not only did Gardner’s campaign website call for repealing the “misguided” ACA, but it was the centerpiece of his entire campaign, his reason for entering the race.

“Throughout his time in Congress, Cory has voiced his strong opposition to Obamacare and the premium increases, thousands of pages in new regulations, and burdensome mandates it creates,” states Gardner’s 2014 campaign website, courtesy of the Way Back Machine. “…He supports legislation that repeals this misguided law and replaces it with a solution that allows the purchase of insurance across state lines, bolsters state high-risk pools to provide for those with pre-existing conditions, and enacts badly needed tort reform to reduce medical costs, among other ideas.”

Health care analysts believe Gardner’s campaign is trying to hide or downplay the senator’s longstanding opposition to the ACA, in light of the fact that the popularity of Obamacare was at a low point when Gardner was elected to the Senate, and it’s at a near high point now.

“Gardner is trying to erase his history of voting to repeal the ACA in 2017 and well before,” said Adam Fox, Director of Strategic Engagement for the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative. “He knows that Coloradans will not look favorably on it, and it damages his chances of re-election. He’s just trying to obscure the way he consistently votes, because it’s politically inconvenient for him.”

Nice try pal. The Colorado Time Recorder helped provide several video clips of Gardner bragging about taking away your health care. 

Let’s make Gardner’s record on repealing the ACA the nail in his political coffin. Click below to donate and get involved with the Colorado Democrat you support.

John Hickenlooper

Andrew Romanoff