UPDATE: Republican Senate candidate Kelly Ward is running digital ads criticizing “Amnesty Senator Cory Gardner”:
Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) is the Chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) for 2018, which means it is his job to make sure that Republicans maintain their Senate majority in November. This is not a good job to have at the moment.
As Politico reported on Friday, Gardner is worried enough about Republican chances of holding onto a seat in beat-red Arizona that he’s calling on President Trump for help:
National Republicans are asking President Donald Trump to intervene in the Arizona Senate primary amid rising fears that the GOP will nominate an unelectable candidate and cede the seat to Democrats in November.
During a recent phone call, National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) asked the president to endorse GOP Rep. Martha McSally, widely viewed as the establishment favorite in the Aug. 28 primary, according to two senior Republicans familiar with the conversation.Trump, according to one of the Republicans, was noncommittal and did not say yes or no to the request. [Pols emphasis]
McSally is facing former state Sen. Kelli Ward and former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, both of whom are running as conservative insurgents. Polls have consistently shown McSally leading in the primary, but Republicans fear that if Ward or Arpaio wins the nomination, it would effectively hand a victory to the expected Democratic nominee, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema.
It was only about a year ago that Trump infamously pardoned longtime buddy Joe Arpaio, so it’s fair that Gardner would be afraid that the President might come to Arpaio’s aid once more. Republican troubles in Arizona, coupled with a surging Democratic candidate in Kyrsten Sinema, are just the latest troublesome changes for the NRSC. The billionaire Koch Brothers recently made it clear that they don’t want anything to do with the Republican Senate candidate in North Dakota, where incumbent Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp had long been considered the best pickup opportunity for Republicans in 2018. And in West Virginia, Republicans are about to throw in the towel on GOP challenger Patrick Morrisey, who doesn’t appear to be up to the task of defeating incumbent Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin in a state Trump carried by 42 points in 2016.
It’s looking increasingly likely that Democrats will regain majority control of the House of Representatives in 2018, but it’s only been in recent months that Republicans really started to worry about losing their Senate majority…and things are only looking worse. Democrat Phil Bredesen appears to be outperforming Republican Marsha Blackburn in Tennessee, and incumbent Republican Sen. Dean Heller is in a dogfight with Democratic challenger Jacky Rosen in Nevada.
If Democrats can win in 2 of 3 races in Arizona, Nevada, and Tennessee, the Republican Senate majority is doomed.
As we’ve discussed before in this space, heading up the NRSC in 2018 has been a massive headache for the ambitious Gardner — so much so, in fact, that it might mark the end of Gardner’s political ascension. Running the NRSC looked much different when Gardner was actively angling for the job in 2016 as a way to join the ranks of Senate Republican leadership and raise his own national profile. Maintaining a Senate majority with Democrat Hillary Clinton as President probably looked like a fairly safe bet for Gardner.
Unfortunately for Gardner, he now must deal with an entirely different political atmosphere. Gardner has consistently struggled to raise money for the NRSC, and with opportunities fading around the country, it seems that embracing Trump is Gardner’s last hope at avoiding embarrassment in 2018. Earlier this year, Trump started to get more involved in the battle for the Senate majority, and Gardner eventually admitted that he regularly consults with Trump on political strategy related to maintaining a GOP majority in the Senate.
Less than three months from the November election, Gardner appears to need Trump just to put himself in a position to avoid a major face plant this fall. If that Hail Mary play somehow manages to work, Gardner then needs to worry about distancing himself from the unpopular Trump ahead of his own 2020 re-election campaign.
Yup, it definitely sucks to be Cory Gardner right now.