At the end stage of any once-contested political campaign whose outcome has become clear as the season wore on, always a watched-for indicator of fateful decisions being made behind the scenes, is the curtailment of spending in races that national strategists in either party have written off as unwinnable. In races that stay close down to the wire, this may never happen–in 2014, Democratic Sen. Mark Udall and GOP gubernatorial loser Bob Beauprez kept their races sufficiently close to retain national support more or less all the way through to Election Day. In other cases, such as Andrew Romanoff’s losing bid against then-Rep. Mike Coffman that same year, the pullout of national resources from the race was a very public death knell.
As the Denver Post’s Justin Wingerter reports today, the bell now tolls for Sen. Cory Gardner–as his re-election bid against the headwinds of Colorado’s leftward political trend since 2014 and the disaster of Donald Trump’s presidency comes apart in the final weeks:
Faced with a consistent stream of polls showing U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner headed for a loss next month, national Republican groups are spending far less in Colorado than in other battleground states this fall.
“There is no reason for either side to put another dime into this state. It’s over,” [Pols emphasis] said David Flaherty, a Republican pollster in Colorado who predicts “historic” losses for his party Nov. 3…
The National Republican Senatorial Committee, which Gardner led two years ago, has spent $145,000 in Colorado in the first half of October, according to a Denver Post review of campaign finance filings through Wednesday. That is far less than in the other five states the NRSC has focused on: Iowa ($3.2 million), Michigan ($3.2 million), Montana ($2.2 million), Maine ($2.2 million) and Arizona ($1.7 million).
We’ve taken note as large media buys by the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) and key Republican Senate leadership PACs have notably either excluded Colorado or been made in far smaller amounts than spending elsewhere, even in considerably less expensive media markets. After Democratic candidate John Hickenlooper posted a record-shattering $22 million take for the third quarter, Gardner responded yesterday with a Q3 total take of under $8 million–which admittedly would have been a record itself were it not less than half what Hickenlooper brought in.
A combination of factors made this decision by Republicans to cut Gardner loose inevitable: stabilization of polling in Colorado’s U.S. Senate race at a double digit lead for Hickenlooper, the increasingly lopsided fundraising disparity in the race, and above all an urgent need to defend Republicans in a growing number of states as the defeat Trump is about to gift the Republican Party on his own way out starts to look more like an historic rout. It’s simple arithmetic based on the electorates in these other states: when Republicans are fighting to save Joni Ernst in Iowa and Lindsey Graham in South Carolina, it means Cory Gardner in Colorado is already done.
Even Dick Wadhams, former Colorado GOP chairman and longtime “itinerant political hitman” who has weighed in forcefully on Gardner’s behalf this election season, conceded the bleak reality to Wingerter in this story:
“Cory’s problem is not that he does not have enough money in his account or that there’s not enough spending on that side. Cory’s biggest problem right now is the national political environment, and that has been driven by President Trump’s numbers against Joe Biden,” Wadhams said. “I’m not sure any money can offset that right now.” [Pols emphasis]
We told you it was coming, folks. To quote the President of the United States, “it is what it is.”