As the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has thrown the gross incompetence of President Donald Trump and the non-career professional side of his administration into harsh relief, along with the Republican political establishment that enabled and continues to prop up Trump through his daily displays of embarrassing ignorance, Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado has taken a terrible beating in the polls, continuing to underperform a sliding Trump and showing deficits in corroborating polling matchups so large Democrats risk complacency if taken for granted–which means they won’t be, at least not yet.
Of all the bad weeks Gardner has had since Trump’s election, and especially since the outbreak of COVID-19, last week could be the worst. Briefly recap it with us:
Last weekend, after polling the previous week showed Gardner losing by as much as 18%, a new poll from showed Gardner’s approval rating fading to black and stuck several points below Trump’s own As the Denver Post’s Justin Wingerter reported:
Global Strategy Group surveyed 800 registered voters in Colorado online between May 7 and 11. They found 37% of voters approve of the job Gardner is doing, which is lower than the 41% of Colorado voters who approve of the job Trump is doing. Thirty percent approved of Gardner’s work on coronavirus response.
Then Trump told the world that he’s taking a drug he has controversially touted for months, hydroxychloroquine, as a preventative measure despite no evidence it is effective for either treatment or prevention of COVID-19 and evidence it could be lethal. Tuesday, CNN’s Manu Raju tried to get Gardner to say something, anything about the President he’s endorsed for re-election, and Gardner’s lame dodge stuck out like a COVID toe:
Asked if Trump should be giving medical advice, Sen. Cory Gardner said: “I’m going to continue to work with the governor of Colorado and make sure Coloradans have what they need to get through this together…”
Then on Wednesday, Gardner snubbed a request by local NBC affiliate 9NEWS, the highest-rated local news channel in the Denver market, for a Senate debate:
Gardner is the first U.S. Senate candidate since Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell in 1998 to decline to debate their opponent on 9NEWS. [Pols emphasis] Nighthorse Campbell, a Democrat turned Republican, was facing Democrat Dottie Lamm at the time.
He is also the first candidate in any race to decline to debate their opponent on 9NEWS since 2014, when Tom Tancredo refused to debate Republican gubernatorial candidates Bob Beauprez, Scott Gessler and Mike Kopp.
While Gardner did agree to some other proposed debates in the general election season, his refusal to go on 9NEWS keeps alive a running battle by reporters at the station to nail Gardner down on a variety of topics over the years going back to his flip-flop on abortion in the 2014 Senate race. This is an increasingly emblematic feud between Gardner and accountability that probably deserves its own blog post.
But of all of these stories that left Cory Gardner looking weak, cowardly, and in deep denial, Thursday’s humiliation was far and away the worst:
Gardner surprised many Wednesday by threatening to stop the Senate recess. He tweeted that it’s “unfathomable” for the chamber to go on a 10-day recess before considering additional coronavirus aid measures. The Senate has been in session the past couple of weeks, but mainly voting on nominations and confirmations.
While Gardner and some other Republican senators have been pushing for more coronavirus aid, McConnell has said repeatedly that a “pause” is needed to see how the money Congress has already spent is or is not working.
Senators left Washington, D.C., without taking up any coronavirus legislation. [Pols emphasis]
And after all of this, a brutal story in Politico Saturday about Gardner’s failure to sway the GOP-controlled Senate on a major local swing voter issue, the legal marijuana industry:
“At some point, I have to go to Cory Gardner and say, ‘Why should the industry continue to support you?’” said Marijuana Policy Project’s Don Murphy, a former Republican lawmaker in Maryland. “I know you’re trying, but you’re not getting anything.” [Pols emphasis]
Cory Gardner’s public defeat after threatening to take show-stopping action to force the Senate to write and pass another round of coronavirus economic stimulus was a shocking exposure of how little influence Gardner actually wields in the Republican-controlled Senate today. It’s surprising that Gardner took this public stand without having assurances from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that he’d be backed up. But it’s even more notable that McConnell left one of his supposedly biggest “protects” up for re-election in 2020 to twist in the wind just like McConnell did with marijuana. That’s an unmistakable sign that Gardner’s value to his own party’s leadership, to the extent is was ever more than a photo-op, is on the wane.
Although Cory Gardner quickly turned his attitude around after Donald Trump’s unexpected 2016 election, from calling for Trump to pull out of the race to becoming one of Trump’s most loyal defenders through through the worst scandals of Trump’s unprecedented scandal-ridden administration, the reality of Trump’s term in office has almost certainly fulfilled the worst fears of Gardner and other “smart” Republicans who despaired in October of 2016–of both defeat and what victory with Trump would look like.
For Cory Gardner in particular, what Republicans should have hailed as a historic moment of total control in Washington in the first two years of Trump’s presidency was instead an unproductive roller-coaster of executive mismanagement and legislative apprehension at the prospect of making good on a decade of promises to the far right–a central component was repealing and replace the Affordable Care Act, which Gardner has campaigned on running for both the U.S. House and Senate.
After Democrats retook the House and began the long process of holding Trump’s bull-in-a-china-shop administration accountable, not to mention putting a stop to the agenda Republicans had largely failed to pass in the two years they had total control, Gardner has been on the defensive everywhere as his poll numbers have trended from bad to worse. And then came the pandemic, which has exposed Trump and the Republican power base that lives in symbiosis with him as so incompetent and corrupt in the face of an actual emergency that Democrats could not possibly make the present reality up.
The proof is coming on so fast and so thick that the biggest challenge is keeping up with the transcription.
The second challenge is finding the words on a continuing basis to adequately describe it.