Trump Impeachment Republicans

Reporters pose questions to Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., on his way to a vote at the Capitol in Washington in March. 

Cory Gardner is protecting big polluters.

This won’t be the last time Cory Gardner leans on his special interest allies in Washington for support.

Cory Gardner and President Trump blah blah blah … .

The emails attacking Colorado’s junior senator arrive on a regular basis.

The tweets are much harsher. At one point, I couldn’t resist posting a faux anti-Gardner tweet:

Twitter: Why didn’t @SenCoryGardner praise the Moon Landing in 1969?

Response: Cory wasn’t born until 1974.

Twitter: Because Cory is unAmerican, that’s why.

Some assaults are coming from Democrat Senate candidate John Hickenlooper, who in August decided to jump into a race for a seat he said he never wanted.

The former governor puzzles me. The guy famously showered again and again with his clothes on during a 2010 campaign ad to get across his message that attack ads made him feel dirty.

And that message echoed Hickenlooper’s style in his first Denver mayoral run, in 2003, where the political neophyte won in a landslide.

“The 51-year-old microbrewer ran a folksy, funky TV campaign ads that made people laugh, and he refused to trash, defame or ridicule anyone except, maybe, himself,” the Rocky Mountain News wrote at the time.

Maybe this different kind of campaign strategy is the recommendation of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the national organization that has endorsed Hickenlooper, raising the ire of other Democratic candidates trying to take out Gardner. See: Romanoff, Andrew.

Gardner in 2014 defeated Democrat Mark Udall, who became the first incumbent Colorado senator to lose in 36 years. Polling shows that record could be shortened to just six years come 2020 when Gardner is up for reelection.

Gardner is in trouble. The Cook Political Report lists the race as a toss up.

Democratic strategist James Carville was even more harsh.

“That poor guy, I don’t think he is vulnerable, I think he’s done. He ought to just drop out of the race,” Carville said.

Full disclosure: This spring I donated $200 to Gardner’s reelection campaign. That’s twice as much as I contributed to Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet’s presidential campaign but less than the total this year of my donations to other Democratic candidates.

That’s also before Hickenlooper got in the race. I donated $25 to his now defunct presidential campaign, money he can use in his Senate bid.

Gardner worked for U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard, and then served in the state House before getting elected to the 4th Congressional District in 2010. Pundits predicted the personable go-getter was on the fast track to House leadership. But four years later, he gave up his safe seat to run for Senate.

Democrats scoffed, pointing to polls that showed Udall was going to win.

“If I lose,” Gardner said at the time, “the worst that happens is I get to put my kids to bed every night.”

But the campaign gods seemed to favor Gardner.

In one of the more bizarre incidents, a sports-and-news blog claimed Gardner lied about playing high school football. That led to a round of stories featuring Gardner wearing his Yuma High School football uniform.

And then there were the ads. Udall’s focused on reproductive rights. His campaign claimed the message moved voters, but Gardner’s focus groups showed something different. The campaign spot that resonated with voters featured Udall standing in the great outdoors and pointing to his heart. “It’s not what’s out there,” he says, “it’s what’s in here.”

That ad ran only briefly.

Gardner beat Udall by less than 2 percentage points.

Some influential Democrats privately conceded Udall ran a flawed campaign, but many on the left were livid. They accused the media — this reporter included — of glossing over Gardner’s record on abortion and contraception, and overselling his claim of bipartisanship.

Political pundits knew Gardner’s reelection bid in six years would be tough. It is Colorado, after all.

But the 2016 presidential election has made it even more difficult for Gardner.

Pollsters wrongly predicted Democrat Hillary Clinton was finally going to break that glass ceiling. Instead, the victory went to TV reality star Donald Trump — a guy Gardner labeled a “buffoon” in 2015 when Trump suggested banning Muslims from entry into the United States.

Gardner is playing a dangerous juggling game now. He could call out Trump’s behavior regarding Ukraine — or any other topic for that matter — but risks losing his base and the support of a president who could be headed to a second term in office.

The senator has been been less than artful in trying to answer questions, and the optics of his Oct. 10 interview with Fox 31 reporter Joe St. George weren’t pretty. I found myself screaming at the TV, “Cory, what the … .”

St. George’s tweet saying Gardner refused to answer the question of whether it was appropriate for the president to ask a foreign leader to investigate a rival went viral.

Jennifer Duffy, senior editor with The Cook Report, also winced when she saw that interview. All Republicans in the House and the Senate are being barraged nonstop with questions about Trump, she said, and it’s clear the onslaught is taking its toll.

“Man,” she said, “impeachment doesn’t help.”

So what that Gardner has had eight bills signed into law, dealing with a range of subjects from sanctions to North Korea to VA funding? So what if President Obama signed five of those bills?

Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if the pollsters had been right and Clinton had won the presidency?

I know. If, if, if.

But I don’t think the blue tsunami that hit Colorado in 2018 would have been so powerful. It wiped out Republicans in statewide office, including my boss, Secretary of State Wayne Williams, lauded nationally for making Colorado the safest state to cast a vote.

I doubt Democrats would have obliterated Republicans running for county offices in Arapahoe County.

Maybe even a pro-business Democrat such as Hickenlooper would have made a better showing in the presidential primary.

I think back to Gov. Hickenlooper’s interview with the Colorado Springs Gazette when Bennet ran for reelection in 2016.

“He’s as close to a nonpartisan Democrat as you’ll find,” Hickenlooper said of Bennet.

“He’s obviously a good Democrat in the same sense Cory Gardner is a good Republican. We’ve got two of the best young senators in America right now. That’s a huge advantage.”

The Nov. 3, 2020, election is a year away. A lot can happen in that time, including the selection of the Democratic nominee to take on Trump.

Polling shows Cory Gardner will be tucking in his kids in 2021. But the polls have been wrong before.

Lynn Bartels can be reached at againlynn@gmail.com.

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