The Colorado Sun’s John Frank and Jesse Paul report:
The political arm of the Koch conservative network endorsed U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner on Tuesday, a move designed to emphasize a renewed focus on policy but one that recalls its big-dollar role in the 2014 election.
Americans for Prosperity Action, one of the most prominent conservative groups in the state, touted the Republican lawmaker’s “straight talk” and “principled stands” expressed in his opposition to trade tariffs, assistance to states that legalized marijuana and support for permanent legal status for immigrants brought as children into the country illegally.
“While others retreated to their corners, Gardner acted. That kind of independent judgment has been the hallmark of Gardner’s Senate career, and it’s why we’re endorsing him for reelection,” wrote Jesse Mallory, an adviser to the political committee and the director of Americans for Prosperity in Colorado, in an opinion piece published in The Colorado Sun.
It’s impossible to imagine Americans For Prosperity making any move other than a full-throated endorsement of Sen. Cory Gardner, so how this reflects a “renewed focus on policy” is anybody’s guess. But here’s a brief passage from Jesse Mallory’s glowing ad absurdum endorsement to convey the general tone:
Gardner embodies the philosophy espoused by the great abolitionist Frederick Douglass, to unite with anybody to do right…
Straight talk, principled stands and a determination to get results ought to be the hallmarks of every elected official. Coloradans can count ourselves fortunate that we have such an official in Sen. Cory Gardner, and we should enthusiastically reelect him.
Look, we get that Mallory wanted to “go big” rhetorically. But Frederick Douglass? For a politician who has spent his whole time in Washington in the undistinguished rank and file of a Republican majority, rising to “leadership” only as the Senate GOP’s lead fundraiser, that’s just laughably over the top.
But before we laugh this sophomoric brown-nosing off entirely, consider the audience of the state’s best-funded conservative advocacy group–and it’s not Democrats. Polling has consistently shown that Gardner is one of the least popular incumbent Senators among fellow Republicans, and without a strategy for shoring up Gardner’s declining base of support among the GOP base Gardner has no realistic path forward in the current political climate. It’s perilous, since Gardner also must win over unaffiliated support in a state trending strongly away from GOP control–and messages that please the GOP base repel those unaffiliated voters.
Once you realize that AFP is sending a message to Republican voters, part of what appears to be a coordinated strategy to counter solidifying conservative disdain for Colorado’s Republican U.S. Senator, the Koch network rushing to Gardner’s aid this early in the cycle makes sense.
It should not, however, be mistaken for strength.