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.