Cory Gardner’s Ceiling is Wayne Allard

This is what it looks like when Cory Gardner works on important issues.

Politics is no different than any other industry in the world in one regard: Everyone always wants to know about the “next” big thing. We all like to gaze at shiny new objects and project the next transcendent athlete or business leader or movie star.

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) has been labeled a “rising star” by local and national media outlets for many years, but given everything we’ve seen in the past couple of months, it’s time to rethink this outlook. Gardner has risen to the ranks of leadership in the Republican Senate, where he is in charge of GOP efforts to maintain their Senate majority in 2018. He is a young elected official in a legislative body where the average age is 61 years old. He is cherubic, camera-friendly and an expert in the art of using a lot of words to say very little. In short, Gardner is everything that Republicans think they want to project in a future leader…but it’s all theoretical.

The reality is hard to ignore: Cory Gardner is terrible at his job.

Now, before you start to disagree with us here, consider this question: Since Cory Gardner was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2014, what has he done that has worked out well?

Gardner is great at muttering nonsense answers to specific questions, but he falls apart in the face of follow-up queries. When confronted with difficult issues, Gardner turns off the ringer on his phone and crawls under his desk. Gardner pretends to support things he actually opposes depending on the political winds, and if you put him in charge of directing specific policies, you can rest assured that nothing will get accomplished.

If you put Gardner in charge of something as important as healthcare policy, you can’t get him to talk about it unless your goal is vague generalities. If you give Gardner a leadership role on foreign policy matters, he somehow wanders into the office of a murderous lunatic (seriously, this was really awful).

Gardner has made a career out of throwing rocks, targeting everyone from Mark Udall to Barack Obama, and his bomb-throwing persona has taken him to the highest levels of government (and dinner at the White House!). Gardner is great at telling people what is wrong with the United States. He is a maestro of partisan politics who excels at complaining about Democrats, and he doesn’t even pretend to be interested in what anyone else has to say. Unfortunately, Gardner doesn’t have a second act. He throws rocks. That’s it.

It is a function of both time and circumstance that nobody can be a “rising star” indefinitely. Gardner is what he is, and he has been this way for a long time. Take a look at something we wrote about this “rising star”  back in March 2013 — a full year before he made a surprise jump into the 2014 U.S. Senate race:

The problem for Gardner is that the “rising star” label can quickly be lost when it looks like you are more sheep than shepherd. He regurgitates nonsense conservative talking points that make no sense considering his own record, and the more you do that, the more you turn into someone like listless Colorado Springs Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn. To be considered a “rising star,” you need to be seen as a “leader” (not a Lamborn). Gardner is quite clearly failing on that front, and he should be careful to prevent that label from becoming permanent.

Former Sen. Wayne Allard (left) and Sen. Cory Gardner

We wrote this paragraph four years ago, and it holds up just as well today. The only thing that has changed for Gardner is the title on his door; otherwise, he’s the same guy.

Gardner is a former staffer for two-term Republican Sen. Wayne Allard, the man who was succeeded by Sen. Mark Udall (whom Gardner defeated in 2014). Gardner is certainly louder than Allard — in part because today’s media landscape provides so many more opportunities to be seen and heard — but functionally, he isn’t all that different than Allard as a Senator. Gardner may have better name ID than Allard, sure, but we don’t recall that Allard was ever as disliked as Gardner is today (the polling speaks for itself).

Before Donald Trump was elected President in 2016, Gardner was being mentioned in some circles as a potential candidate to run for the White House in 2020. This always seemed premature to us, but that’s what often happens when you get labeled a “rising star” in politics — you can be an up-and-comer until you prove otherwise. That’s exactly where we are with Gardner.

Three years from now, Gardner will be facing a dogfight in his bid for re-election to the Senate. If he somehow manages to pull out a victory in 2020, he’ll match his former boss, Allard, as a two-term Republican Senator in Colorado. Winning two terms in the U.S. Senate is certainly no small accomplishment, and Gardner deserves plenty of credit if he can make it that far.

10 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Bright Bart says:

    Colo Democrats wish they had a real star like Gardner.

  2. VoyageurVoyageur says:

    Democrats already have two such stars, Michael Bennet and Gov. Hickenlooper.  They seem poised to add Ed Perlmutter to their list of unbeatables.   It's only the left wing of the party that wishes it had a star like the right wing Gardner.

    (Cue Zappaterro to denounce all Democrats who have actually won an election.)

  3. RepealAndReplace says:

    What has he done that has worked out well?

    It's too soon to tell but he did a sign a letter once expressing concern about the impact TrumpCare will have no Medicaid recipients. That's it.

    I'm not a big fan of Gardner. Hell, I'm not a fan at all. But I wouldn't put him in the same category with Allard. Gardner some potential.

    Allard, while reportedly a nice man (except if you were GLBorT), wasn't called the Potted Plant by his colleagues for nothing.

  4. unnamed says:

    Come on. To paraphrase Moldy: "Not everything Gardner does is worthless."

  5. ajb says:

    Well, let's see…He's defended the labs in Boulder (NOAA, NIST, NCAR). IIRC, he's defended legal weed, right? Don't get me wrong, those don't count as legislative achievements, but he hasn't been a knuckle-dragging mouth breather and he isn't as craven as some -cough- coff -cough- CO pols.

  6. Conserv. Head Banger says:

    Is Bright Bart another name for PP?

    I look on the bright side here. Our state could have an anti-public lands firebrand like Mike Lee or John Barrasso as a Republican senator. Gardner has spoken out at times in support of public lands; his vote in early 2015 against the non-binding Murkowski amendment to turn over public ands to the states was a start. He was a lead sponsor late last year to include outdoor recreation in computation of GDP and has been a good supporter of moving the Outdoor Retailer shows to Denver. Gardner has been supportive of funding the Land & Water Conservation Fund.

    I know the Zappateros of this site won't settle for anything less than a Dem in the seat. But, in general, Gardner has been mostly OK on the issues of concern for me. Having said that, there will be challenges ahead, especially on national monuments and dealing with the POS who heads the EPA.

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