UPDATE: The tests have been taken:
Ahead of tonight’s #cosen debate in Pueblo, @SenCoryGardner and @Hickenlooper are getting tested for COVID-19. What happens if either tests positive? 🤷🏼♂️ Hickenlooper campaign statement below. #copolitics pic.twitter.com/Q44qPNFH40
— Marshall Zelinger (@Marshall9News) October 2, 2020
CBS4 Denver reports ominously:
There are new coronavirus concerns surrounding Amy Coney Barrett’s meetings with U.S. senators including Sen. Cory Gardner, Colorado’s junior senator. Barrett has tested negative for COVID but she met with Sen. Mike Lee of Utah on Tuesday, the same day as Gardner, and Lee has now tested positive…
Gardner is scheduled to debate his challenger John Hickenlooper on Friday night. A spokesperson for Gardner’s office told CBS4 that will still happen.
The latest news reports suggest that Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, who Sen. Cory Gardner met with earlier this week, was diagnosed with and recovered from COVID-19 earlier in the summer. That’s potentially good news for Gardner, though we have no way of knowing whether Gardner was in close proximity with Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, who has now tested positive–not to mention the President himself. At this point, we’ll have to take Gardner at his word that he doesn’t need to be quarantined, and we’re looking ahead to watching tonight’s streamed debate from Pueblo at 7:00PM.
Which brings us to what might happen in tonight’s debate. It’s no secret that Gardner has been hoping for a face-to-face showdown with former Gov. John Hickenlooper, a chance for Gardner’s quick thinking and polished delivery score badly needed points in a forum that no one would call Hickenlooper’s strong suit. Unfortunately for Gardner, the events of the past few days have resurfaced many of the worst sins of last decade of Republican control and the Trump administration, and these issues are going to be front of mind in tonight’s debate. From the pandemic’s deep damage and recent resurgence to Gardner’s own role in denying Barack Obama the choice to replace Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court back in 2016, it’s been a hellish week for Gardner in a race he’s already losing.
We can start with the assumption that most of Gardner’s answers about the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic will be talking points we’ve heard before: masks from Taiwan, tests from South Korea–Gardner’s anecdotal relief efforts meant to distract from the administration’s failure to supply emergency equipment–and even commandeering Colorado’s order for ventilators. Now that it’s known Trump was fully aware of the dire impending situation in early February, Gardner has to explain holding a rally in Colorado Springs with Trump and thousands of Republican faithful on February 20th, which wrecks Gardner’s own claim that he was concerned about the pandemic as early as January.
With respect to health care, Gardner’s vote this week with Democrats against a lawsuit Gardner has previously supported seeking to overturn the Affordable Care Act, a vote forced by Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer’s resistance campaign against confirming a new Justice before a new President is sworn in in January, obligates Gardner to explain why he has spent the last decade trying to achieve the goals of that lawsuit. Because Gardner is very adept at sidestepping his long record of opposition to protecting Americans with pre-existing conditions, whom Gardner only started caring to protect from GOP repeal efforts when polls showed it was a major political liability, it’s going to be up to the Hickenlooper (and the moderators, naturally) to not let Gardner off the hook here.
The Supreme Court confirmation controversy is of course a subject we expect to be thoroughly aired in tonight’s debate, and in addition to health care several other questions central to Gardner’s record are sure to come up. Gardner’s refusal in 2016 to allow Merrick Garland a fair hearing will be contrasted unfavorably against rushing Amy Coney Barrett through just weeks before the election this year, and Gardner will have to own that under cross-examination. But perhaps more importantly, the game Gardner was able to play in 2014, in which his “personal views on abortion” supposedly did not translate into a proximal threat to abortion rights, is a bitter punchline today.
If there’s time, we think it would be interesting to revisit Gardner’s own words from October of 2016: “I cannot and will not support someone who brags about degrading and assaulting women.” An honest answer from Gardner as to how he was able to “evolve” from that position to backing Trump to the bitter end in 2020 would be…very interesting.
The aggregate weight of the case against Cory Gardner is so strong that the result tonight will be determined simply by how well Hickenlooper and moderators hold Gardner to the facts about his and Trump’s record. Gardner’s ability to stay on message no matter what obstacles stand in his way will be sorely tested in this debate, and on so many of these questions there simply are no truthful answers that are also survivable.
For all of these reasons, we’ll be tuning in our small screens. Watch this space for updates.