Stu Rothenberg: Gardner’s Plight Worse Than Meets The Eye

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma).

Be sure not to miss political analyst Stuart Rothenberg’s rundown yesterday of the eight 2020 U.S. Senate races expected to decide control of the chamber. As readers should know by now, on paper the top two targets for Democrats in 2020 are the two seats held by Republicans in states that voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election–Susan Collins of Maine and Cory Gardner of Colorado.

Rothenberg makes much of Sen. Collins’ “personal relationships” as a survival strength, and the Morning Consult daily tracking poll of Collins’ favorability (52%) showing a number that Gardner (35%) would kill for. But as Rothenberg continues, even that is not the full measure of Gardner’s troubles going into 2020:

In 2014, I repeatedly noted what a strong candidate Cory Gardner was and what a perfect race he ran, but 2020 is likely to produce a very different political environment in Colorado…

Gardner ended up winning by just under 2 points. But two years later, Trump lost Colorado by 5 points, and the state’s growing suburbs clearly are not advantageous territory for him, as evidenced by former GOP Rep. Mike Coffman’s double-digit loss and Democrat Jared Polis’s double-digit gubernatorial victory in last year’s midterm elections.

…While handicapping websites like Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales, The Cook Political Report and Sabato’s Crystal Ball all start Gardner’s race off as a Toss-up next year, the Colorado Republican is really more of an underdog in his bid to win a second term. [Pols emphasis]

This is consistent with our own belief that the pundits calling the Colorado U.S. Senate race a “tossup” today don’t fully understand the underlying trends. Indeed few states in America have seen as much of a Democratic political solidification since Gardner’s narrow election win in 2014 as Colorado. Gardner’s gross abandonment of the moderate image he cultivated to win that year against the prevalent political trends of the state, combined with his wholesale embrace of Donald Trump after calling for Trump to exit the presidential race in 2016, leave Gardner even more vulnerable than the results of last November’s Democratic landslide in this state foretell.

Democrats of course have a clown car primary to sort through, and the possibility that the eventual Democratic nominee has not yet even entered the race. Either way, whoever emerges the winner will have not just the opportunity of a lifetime but an obligation to rectify what was arguably the biggest mistake by midterm Colorado voters in a generation. In a state steadily transitioning from “purple” to bonafide blue, Gardner in 2020 is the last Republican anachronism standing.

At this point, Gardner’s seat is Democrats’ to lose.

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  1. unnamed says:

    whoever emerges the winner will have not just the opportunity of a lifetime but an obligation to rectify what was arguably the biggest mistake by midterm Colorado voters in a generation. 

    Yup.  Even the Denver Post agrees.

  2. Gilpin Guy says:

    Gardner is going to have a hard time pivoting to the middle while embracing Trump.  I guess he is hoping Trump's close ties to Putin will be enough to give him the win.  Obviously running as a 'centrist' isn't going to get the same resonance this time around.  Laughter maybe.

  3. RepealAndReplace says:

    I'm going out on a limb here but I predict he drops out of the race. The official reason: to spend more time with the family.

    That leaves the GOP with its perennial dilemma:  run a moderate (I'm looking at you, Cynthia Coffman) or a RWNJ (Ken Buck, Tim Neville, Patrick Neville, or something even more exotic – like Dr. Chaps or Daryl Glenn again).

  4. davebarnesdavebarnes says:

    I am not an expert on campaign money.

    Cory is not rich, Can he collect million$ in his campaign and then not spend it on a campaign, but spend on himself and family? That is, can he turn campaign contributions into a retirement fund?

    • VoyageurVoyageur says:

      Basically, he can't convert campaign money to personal use.  It can be given to other campaigns.

      • MichaelBowmanMichaelBowman says:

        So he could play Kingmaker next cycle and fund a campaign for PoddyMouth?  Swink dog catcher? Morality cop in Sodom the Springs? (somebody needs to keep an eye on Chaps, Ted and the now-retired Shirtless Sheriff) 

        • VoyageurVoyageur says:

          He has three choices:

          1..  Sit on the money indefinitely, because the ca mpaign fund can go on indefinitely

          2.  Give it to another politician's fund.  Poddy for gauleiter fund.

          3.  Give it to charity.

          Obviously, he can also do a combination of all three.

    • Well, Trump seems to be doing a good job of converting campaign and taxpayer funds to personal profit, but Cory doesn't own a golf club or a downtown Manhattan tower that he can charge exhorbitant rent on…

      • Gilpin Guy says:

        Airlines and hotels do benefit from his constant junkets to avoid holding town hall meetings with belligerent constituents.  It would be a thing to behold watching Cory in a room full of mixed party participants trying to be a 'centrist' and an ardent Trump supporter at the same time.

  5. JohnInDenverJohnInDenver says:

    Unlike 2014, Gardner will be running in a year likely to have a larger turnout, made up of a younger cohort with less frequent/regular voters (both of which lean Democratic).  He won't have Cambridge Analytica trying out a sub rosa campaign of social influence to help him.  And he will have a  less unified Republican Party backing him — the comments on his Facebook account make it clear that not every Republican will rush to vote for Cory.

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