(Yeah, yeah, it’s January 10th. At least we finished this — Colorado Pols)
How bad was 2017 for Cory Gardner? Consider this: When Gardner materialized in the Philippines in June glad-handing a murderous dictator, it wasn’t even the low point of his year.
The biggest Colorado political story of 2017 was the slow-motion destruction of Sen. Cory Gardner’s political career. The Yuma Republican was heralded as a rising star in the GOP when he was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2014, and the hype grew to such extreme measures that Gardner was even mentioned as a potential candidate for Vice President in 2016. But after a terrible 12 months as a member of the Senate Republican leadership, it’s fair to wonder whether Gardner can even hold his own seat in 2020.
In the last couple of years, Gardner has traveled the country supporting various Republican candidates in a transparent attempt to raise his own national profile. He was rewarded for his efforts in late 2016 when he was selected to head up the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) for 2018 – a job he had lobbied for back when it seemed absurd that Donald Trump might get elected to the Presidency. Gardner figured that he would have little trouble guiding the NRSC to victory in 2018 with Hillary Clinton in the White House, but now it looks like he’ll be the guy in charge when Republicans lose their Senate majority in November.
Gardner’s struggles at the helm of the NRSC are killing his political reputation, with damaging charges of voter-list theft the cherry on top of a terrible year trying to raise money for the organization. By the end of 2017, the White House was openly fretting about Gardner’s fundraising problems at the NRSC.
But it wasn’t just trouble with the NRSC that plagued Gardner in 2017. He was pummeled for most of the year over his inexplicable refusal to hold a town hall event in Colorado – a strange strategic decision that caused endless headaches for the Senator and led to the creation of a famous cardboard version of the Yuma Republican. When Gardner finally faced Colorado voters in mid-August after some 500 days of avoiding them…well, let’s just say people were justifiably pissed off. It doesn’t help Gardner’s cause that his Senate offices have basically stopped trying to respond to constituents.
Gardner’s approval ratings plummeted accordingly. By the end of the year, Gardner had become one of the 10 most disliked Senators in the entire country — ripped on social media and mocked on late-night television as a blathering stooge for Senate Republicans. Vocal Colorado Republicans began to attack Gardner as well, and national conservative voices became pointed critics.
It’s telling that Gardner isn’t listed anymore as a potential “swing vote” in national stories – not after the way he embraced every iteration of a failed attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act while trying to explain his actions with loads of gibberish to the media. This is a problem for Gardner’s made-up “moderate” image, and it indicates the extent to which reporters – with the exception of Gardner transcriber/CBS4 reporter Shaun Boyd — are no longer buying this presentation.
As the 2018 year in politics gets underway, Gardner is trying hard to present himself as some sort of Weed Warrior while also shining Donald Trump’s shoes and hoping nobody notices the contradictions. In other words, Gardner has no idea how he is going to extricate himself from the political morass he stumbled into in 2017. His best hope is just that 2018 can’t possibly be any worse than the year he just finished.