Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) is a hot mess right now.
In the last 24 hours or so, Gardner has tried desperately to convince reporters that his campaign isn’t already doomed; watched his Democratic opponent win a blowout victory despite millions in negative ads; saw a fellow incumbent lose a Primary despite having President Trump’s endorsement; conducted a handful of interviews that make him sound like a lunatic used-car salesman; and got to see a new General Election poll already showing that he’s getting crushed by Democratic Senate nominee John Hickenlooper.
Tuesday Afternoon (June 30)
With just a few hours to go until polls close in Colorado, the Gardner campaign releases a laughable memo (“Cory Gardner Isn’t Dead Yet Probably”) that inaccurately calls Colorado “the Rocky Mountain state” (the correct answer is: The Centennial State) and lists the wrong margin of victory for his 2014 Senate win. The memo says that Gardner defeated Democrat Mark Udall by 2.5 points in 2014, but the actual final margin was just about 2 even. This isn’t a huge deal, but it’s a weird thing to lie about.
There are a lot of other, let’s say, exaggerations in the Gardner memo, which calls Hickenlooper “the worst senate candidate in America” a few hours before Hick wins the Democratic Primary by 20 points. Check out this preemptive jab at media outlets hoping to convince reporters that Gardner is not screwed:
One thing you can count on – the Washington, DC press corps will predict losses across the board for Republicans in Senate contests this cycle. It is part of their migratory ritual every even-numbered year that more often than not proves incorrect. They’ll proclaim Colorado is now the political soulmate of California – or something equally preposterous.
And then there’s this bit of nuttery:
In Colorado the floor for candidates from both parties is high and the ceiling is low. Single-digit races are the norm. Democrats will also spin yarns about their bare voter registration advantage. It’s nonsense. [Pols emphasis] For decades, Republicans had a voter registration advantage in this state, but Democrats like Michael Bennet, Mark Udall, Ken Salazar, and even John Hickenlooper were able to win statewide. Independents decide elections in Colorado – they always have and always will.
First of all, a voter registration advantage is a concrete number. The advantage doesn’t necessarily play out in every contest, but you can’t dispute that the number is indeed real. The rest of this paragraph actually hurts the underlying argument; if Democratic candidates could win when Republicans had a voter registration advantage, then they should feel really good about having a natural head start in 2020.
Also, raise your hand if you believe that the 2020 Election is going to be just like Colorado’s past half-dozen General Elections by any measurement.
Nobody? Okay, let’s move on…
Tuesday Evening (June 30)
Election results are coming in, and they are disastrous for Republicans. Hickenlooper defeats Andrew Romanoff by 20 points in the Democratic Primary — despite weeks of expensive negative attacks against Hick. As we wrote earlier:
Last August, Hickenlooper was polling at about 61% support in a potential Democratic Primary. He’s going to end up winning the Primary with about 60% of the vote…after Republicans spent $2 million in negative ads attacking Hickenlooper for ethics charges and a hard-to-understand public-private partnership “scandal.”
This is a big blow for Team Gardner, even if a Hickenlooper victory was anticipated. But Gardner takes a second body blow when he learns that incumbent Republican Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Cortez) will lose in a GOP Primary to a political newcomer who raised little money for her campaign. Just like Gardner, Tipton had the full endorsement of President Trump; it didn’t even help in a Republican Primary. Gardner can also look forward to being asked about whether he agrees with Lauren Boebert in hoping that the QAnon conspiracy theories are real.
Later, Gardner is quoted several times in a story written by Ernest Luning of the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman in which he seems to confuse Hickenlooper and Romanoff entirely:
Gardner said he also plans to press Hickenlooper to explain “his new, radical positions” on health care and the environment, though Gardner cited positions championed by Romanoff but rejected by Hickenlooper [Pols emphasis], such as Medicare for all and the Green New Deal. Indeed, much of Romanoff’s campaign against Hickenlooper centered around his primary rival’s opposition to those proposals.
They’re all socialists! The whole lot of them! Arrrgghhhhh!!!
Gardner then opens up a can of worms — inaccurately — on an issue that he really shouldn’t be discussing:
“He needs to explain why 20% of the state tried to secede when he was governor,” Gardner said, referring to a failed 2013 effort by some conservatives in 11 northeastern Colorado counties — representing 7% of Colorado’s population — to form the 51st state.
When he says “20% of the state,” Gardner is referring to 20% of the land in Colorado. Less than 2% of Colorado’s population actually ended up supporting succession in 2013. Notably, Gardner HAS NEVER SAID how he voted on this issue, which is why we wouldn’t have broached the topic if we were him. One year before he was elected to the U.S. Senate, did Gardner vote in favor of secession?
Wednesday Morning, July 1
Gardner starts his day as a guest of Ryan Warner on Colorado Public Radio. It is an unmitigated disaster.
A transcript: pic.twitter.com/1b4bElEcvh
— Justin Wingerter (@JustinWingerter) July 1, 2020
Gardner also dodges questions about reports that Russia set cash bounties on the heads of American soldiers; about whether he questions his continued support of President Trump; and whether he supports the nomination of William Perry Pendley to be the Director of the Bureau of Land Management, which moved its HQ to Grand Junction last year with a big lift from Gardner.
Warner previewed his Gardner interview on Tuesday, writing on Twitter: “On Wednesday— when we will most likely know who his Democratic opponent is — Sen. Cory Gardner joins Colorado Matters for our first interview of the general election. What would you like to know?”
If you are one of the people who happened to submit a question, we’ll save you the trouble of looking for the clip online; Gardner definitely didn’t provide an answer.
Late Morning on Wednesday, July 1
Finally, a new poll from PPP is released showing Hickenlooper leading Gardner by a 51-40 margin, including a 19-point advantage among “independent” voters. The same poll shows Democrat Joe Biden leading President Trump by a 56-39 margin, with a 25-point advantage among “independents.”
Let’s go back to this line in Tuesday’s memo from the Gardner campaign:
Independents decide elections in Colorado – they always have and always will.
Cory Gardner is not going to be re-elected to the U.S. Senate in November, and he knows this. It’s all over but the shouting…and these are the last desperate cries of a man watching the door close on a once-promising political career.