Timing can be everything in politics, and few Colorado elected officials understand that better than Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma).
Gardner was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2014 for a number of reasons — foremost the fact that he ran a strong campaign while incumbent Sen. Mark Udall did not — but also because he picked the right year to make the leap from the House of Representatives. His political timing has always been impeccable, whether cruising into his prior Congressional seat in the Tea Party wave year of 2010 or getting his start in the state legislature by way of a Republican vacancy committee.
Gardner is not a risk-taker, politically-speaking, which is why this news from Politico about the 2018 Senate cycle makes perfect sense:
Sens. Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Cory Gardner of Colorado are floating a novel idea: Sharing the job of leading the Senate GOP’s campaign arm.
The freshmen lawmakers are gauging support for a proposal to become co-chairmen of the National Republican Senatorial Committee for the 2018 election cycle, a prime opportunity for the GOP to pick up seats or recapture the Senate if they lose it this year. [Pols emphasis] Democrats will be defending 25 seats vs. just eight for the GOP, and Tillis and Gardner are aggressively pursuing a leadership role at the organization to capitalize on the opportunity.
It is certainly true that 2018, a non-Presidential election year, appears to be a better cycle to be heading up campaign operations for Senate Republicans. Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker won the job in 2016 with a close insider-election over Nevada Sen. Dean Heller; considering the fractured nature of the Republican Party and its less-than-ideal Presidential nominee (Donald Trump), Wicker probably wishes he had a do-over.
Should Democrats re-take control of the U.S. Senate this year, Gardner (and Tillis) would be well-positioned to emerge as heroes if they are able to wrestle back the Senate in 2018. And by serving as “co-chairs” of the NRSC, both could avoid the brunt of the blame in case things don’t turn out so well for the GOP. Either scenario helps Gardner prepare his own fundraising efforts in advance of his 2020 re-election bid.
There’s another good reason for the NRSC to go with a “co-chair” lineup in 2018: Gardner may be good at managing his own political career, but he really sucks at identifying other strong candidates to support.