Following the announcement yesterday by Colorado’s imperiled junior GOP U.S. Senator Cory Gardner that he would now support legislation to reopen parts of the federal government without funding for President Donald Trump’s border wall, in effect caving to Democrats on the same day they took control of the U.S. House for the first time since 2011, prominent members of Gardner’s own party still loyal to President Trump reacted–and it wasn’t kind:
— Laura Ingraham (@IngrahamAngle) January 4, 2019
Ouch! It’s a safe bet that Laura Ingraham’s 2.4 million followers were not impressed, and the replies to her Tweet certainly indicate as much. The real test, of course, will be whether President Trump himself chooses to personally weigh in on Gardner’s new groove. Trump has given Gardner several warm mentions in the past few months both in person and via the Twitters, not least a glowing send-up at a campaign rally in West Virginia after Gardner accompanied Trump to the event on Air Force One (photo right).
Strategically, this move has been broadly recognized as a first step in what pundits agree will be a wholesale political transformation for Sen. Gardner if he has any realistic hope of staying in office after 2020. Much like when Gardner launched his 2014 Senate campaign by audaciously declaring he no longer supported the “Personhood” abortion ban initiatives, Gardner is making a highly public splash of dissent in hopes of disrupting the “Trump toady” image he currently is saddled with.
The problem, as you can see in Ingraham’s response, is that Gardner is alienating base Republicans that he needs every bit as much as swing voters by caving on Trump’s signature priority. Because Gardner is running in a state whose politics have moved steadily away from Republicans, it makes sense that he is trying to put distance between himself and the Republican brand–but whatever Gardner nets in terms of swing support, which won’t be much, comes at the expense of base Republican votes.
Is there a good move for Gardner at this point? Maybe not, but the people who rightly consider themselves Gardner’s closest allies say this is not it.