Yesterday, as Coloradans finished casting a blue wave of ballots that upended state politics, U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, who along with CU Regent Heidi Ganahl are now the lone Republicans occupying state-wide offices in Colorado, was on the radio talking like a candidate.
That’s what he’ll likely be in 2020, if he defends his seat for the first, and Democrats hope, the last time.
On the radio, Gardner said “there are elements of the radical left who are going to oppose President Trump, no matter how good it is for this country.”
Gardner was trying to find a middle ground on Trump, acknowledging the widespread anger with the president in Colorado, which favored Hillary Clinton by five points, while focusing on economic themes.
GARDNER: And I think there are elements of the radical left who are going to oppose President Trump, no matter how good it is for this country. There are obviously things that we’re going to agree with and disagree with the president on.
But the economy is creating jobs. Money is coming back in, a thousand manufacturing jobs a day added to this country. You’ve got billions of dollars relocating into the United States. Wages are going up. This is incredible.
And you’re exactly right. There are elements of the radical left that are going to vote against that economic growth, vote against that economic opportunity, just because of the sheer blindness of their opposition.
Whether Gardner’s love-some-of-Trump-Hate-some-of-Trump message would work in Colorado in 2020, is obviously unknown today, two years out.
But after this election, you have think this would fail miserably, and Gardner couldn’t win here with Trump on the ticket, especially given that Gardner has been a loyal ninety-one-percent Trump supporter.
And yesterday’s election shows that Republicans nationwide aren’t in the mood to dump the president from the 2020 ballot, meaning he likely isn’t going anywhere.
Even if Trump is gone by 2020, the voting pattern in Colorado today looks bad for the first-term senator, as pollsters on both sides of the aisle have been pointing out all week.
Unaffiliated voters, whose numbers are growing here, are critical of the Republican Party. Democrats’ numbers are also growing, and they will likely be voting in full force once again with Trump on the ballot. And with that math, Republicans, even if they vote with more enthusiasm than they did today, can’t compete.
And Colorado’s Republican Party, including Gardner, don’t seem receptive to some of the issues that could swing unaffiliated voters over the the GOP side of the aisle.
As Republican pollster David Flaherty explained in ColoradoPolitics last week:
“Of the issues that are out there, you get the feeling we’re not on the right side of a lot of where a majority of voters think, or how they view problems,” GOP pollster David Flaherty told ColoradoPolitics’ Ernest Luning. “That’s true with climate change and, in Colorado, something as basic as protecting the environment. If you are a Republican, you need to prove to those unaffiliated voters you are pro-environment by having strong positions, not just by mouthing the words.”
It’s the same on the Second Amendment, a core GOP issue, Flaherty said.
“The whole motivation of standing with the Second Amendment — that doesn’t hit home with unaffiliated voters,” he said, noting that unaffiliated voters don’t understand Republican opposition to so-called red-flag bills, which would allow a judge to remove firearms temporarily from someone found to be a risk to him or herself or others. “Republicans are never going to give up that issue.”
Flaherty thinks unaffiliated voters are more in line with Republicans on taxes and spending, which is why Gardner is rushing to move the conversation there.
But Trump’s tax bill, with its massive tax gains for the wealthy, has not fared well in polls either.
And regardless, Gardner’s economic message didn’t do much for Republicans yesterday, perhaps in part because Colorado’s economy, though healthy by some measures, isn’t working for much of the state’s population, who continue to struggle with stagnant wages and economic uncertainty.
So Gardner’s plan of trying to take the middle road on Trump looks perilous.
Maybe Gardner will shift to a more anti-Trump stance, putting him more in line with those he’s now calling the “radical left” or, in another interview, the “loony left.”
Stranger things have happened.
That’s exactly what Aurora Congressman Mike Coffman tried to do. But as of last night, he’s out of office.
Listen to Gardner on KHOW Nov. 6