UPDATE: CNN’s Dana Bash speaks frankly about President Donald Trump’s financial power over Republican Senators today, and how it could be brought to bear against vulnerable incumbents like Sen. Cory Gardner:
Donald Trump’s “chaos presidency” has given Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado innumerable chances to put daylight between himself and a President deeply unpopular in a state they will both be up for re-election in next November. Since Gardner called for Trump to pull out of the race in October of 2016, saying he “cannot and will not support someone who brags about degrading and assaulting women,” Gardner’s swift track back into line to support Trump unquestioningly after Trump’s unexpected victory has wreaked havoc on Gardner’s credibility with Colorado voters–contributing directly to Gardner’s weakness in every poll conducted over the past year.
A recurring question in response to this ongoing political masochism is simple: why is Gardner so determined to not just support Trump, but tirelessly work to rehabilitate Trump with Colorado voters who want nothing to do with Trump?
I like the president, and we’ve got to make sure we have an opportunity for the American people to get to like the President. [Pols emphasis]
To our knowledge, no reporter has ever asked Gardner directly to explain his evolution from denouncing Trump as “someone who brags about degrading and assaulting women” to claiming that he “likes” Trump and wants you, the same voters he told Trump was a rapist in 2016, to “like” Trump too. The difficulty reporters have experienced getting even the most rudimentary answers from Gardner on the substance of the impeachment case against Trump makes it highly unlikely that Gardner will ever come clean on this arguably even greater and more emotionally visceral contradiction.
If Gardner won’t explain these contradictions himself, voters are left to figure out what’s going on themselves. And as Politico’s Alex Isenstadt reports, there is a straightforward explanation requiring little imagination, damning though it may be:
President Donald Trump is rewarding senators who have his back on impeachment — and sending a message to those who don’t to get on board. [Pols emphasis]
…On Wednesday, the Trump reelection campaign sent a fundraising appeal to its massive email list urging donors to provide a contribution that would be divided between the president and Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, and North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis. Each of the senators are supporting the anti-impeachment resolution despite being endangered in 2020.
“If we don’t post strong fundraising numbers,” the message warned, “we won’t be able to defend the President from this baseless Impeachment WITCH HUNT.”
Reaching out to Trump’s loyal fan base–more loyal to Trump than the Republican Party as a whole at this point–to fill Cory Gardner’s coffers is just another sign, along with Gardner headlining the Trump campaign’s recent fundraising “retreat” in New York and co-billed with Trump for another event next month, of the tie that binds Gardner to Trump more than perhaps anything else. With the Republican Party increasingly a cult of personality existing to prop up one individual, Gardner’s immediate political future is linked at the hip to the President’s.
Even if Trump has no realistic shot at winning Colorado, and we’re pretty sure he does not, Gardner’s already bleak prospects for re-election become a total impossibility without the support of the Republican base–and if Gardner jilts Trump now, the base jilts Gardner.
Gardner may yet have a conscience, but Trump’s money is flooding it like dopamine floods a drug addict’s brain. If there is a better explanation for a strategy that seems certain in the end to harm America’s Most Vulnerable Senator™ far more than it helps him, we’d like to hear it.