JAMES CARVILLE: That poor guy, I don’t think he is vulnerable, I think he’s done. He ought to just drop out of the race.
In the past 24 hours, Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado has transitioned from merely the nation’s most vulnerable Republican Senator up for re-election in 2020 into a living metaphor for the Republican Party’s inability to hold President Donald Trump accountable as Trump’s chaotic presidency barrels toward catastrophe.
Gardner was not the only vulnerable Republican caught giving completely unsatisfactory answers to reporters about impeachment inquiry dominating national headlines, but Gardner’s evasive and increasingly hostile interaction with FOX 31’s Joe. St. George and 9NEWS’ Anusha Roy seems to have struck a nerve like few other moments in Gardner’s career. This was hardly Gardner’s first go-round trying to manage a bad Trump story, but after these two competing reporters tag-teamed to prevent Gardner from changing the subject his “torture to watch” evasions became the functional equivalent of pleading guilty. The Hill’s Jordain Carney captured the moment well:
When the reporter tried to follow up to ask again if Gardner thought it was appropriate, Gardner said that he had answered the question and turned to another reporter.
After the second reporter asked Gardner if his answer was “yes or no,” the GOP senator pivoted to talking about House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry and told reporters they were focusing on politics…
The clip of the back-and-forth between Garner and reporters quickly garnered attention from national media, Gardner’s 2020 rivals and even Trump, who liked a tweet from a Bloomberg reporter weighing in on a video of Gardner’s comments. [Pols emphasis]
Given the extent of the backfire, perhaps Gardner’s performance was worse than pleading guilty.
One of the recurring comments we’ve seen in response to yesterday’s punishing back-and-forth is that it was an “uncharacteristic” reaction from a Senator who has established a reputation for staying composed no matter what he’s confronted with. But yesterday Gardner’s mask slipped, and in addition to getting visibly irritated in the clip now seen by the whole country he had this telling separate exchange with 9NEWS’ Anusha Roy:
We asked @SenCoryGardner why he says Halliburton’s multi-state layoffs are the fault of Democrats in Colorado.
Anusha proceeded to ask her question again as he walked away.
— Kyle Clark (@KyleClark) October 10, 2019
Folks, that is not how a happy politician interacts with the press.
In 2014, Gardner powered through scrutiny of his record by audaciously re-inventing himself and successfully turning liabilities into sympathetic backlash against his “overly negative” opponent. Five years later, Gardner can’t count on any of that–and the “message discipline” that helped Gardner eke out his 1.9% win in 2014 is blowing up in Gardner’s face.
Cory Gardner has never faced anything quite like this before. In a way, this problem is worse than Gardner’s underwater poll numbers, since losing credibility with the media makes it much harder to recover lost support. And while we don’t expect Gardner to take James Carville’s advice today…the thought has to have crossed his mind by now.