When political pundits list incumbent GOP senators who are considered vulnerable in the 2020 election, Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado is usually at the top of the list along with Iowa’s Sen. Joni Ernst, Maine’s Sen. Susan Collins and Arizona’s Sen. Martha McSally. And a Keating Research/OnSight Public Affairs survey released this week only confirms Gardner’s vulnerability.
The survey found that in a hypothetical matchup, centrist Democrat and former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper would defeat Gardner by 11%. Moreover, Keating/OnSight found that only 34% of Colorado residents view Gardner favorably.
More bad news for Gardner in the survey: 54% of the respondents favored an impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump, whose reelection Gardner has endorsed. And with the Ukraine scandal moving along, Gardner finds himself in the difficult position of being afraid to criticize Trump at a time when most people in his state believe an impeachment inquiry is warranted.
The impeachment inquiry came about after a whistleblower in the intelligence community formally made a complaint about Trump’s July 25 phone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. A rough transcript of that conversation shows that Trump tried to pressure Zelensky into helping him dig up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.
Last week, MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough (a vehemently anti-Trump conservative) gave Gardner hell for refusing to answer a simple, straight-forward question from reporters: is it OK for a president to urge a foreign leader to investigate a political rival? Scarborough, a former GOP congressman, berated Gardner mercilessly on his program, “Morning Joe,” declaring, “Hey, Cory, the correct answer is ‘no.’”
Speaking to reporters last week, a frustrated Gardner was quite evasive and was clearly trying to dodge that question. Gardner, mentioning various states where incumbent GOP senators are considered vulnerable, angrily told reporters, “Why is it that when you all do stories, or we see reports in the news, it’s about four states: Colorado, Arizona, Maine and North Carolina. Seems to be about politics and elections other than the serious process than it is.”
The reporters, however, kept after him with their question: is it or isn’t it OK for a president to urge a foreign leader to investigate a political revival? And Gardner never gave them a straight answer.
“But you’re not answering,” one of the reporters told Gardner. “We want to hear from you.”
Another vulnerability for Gardner is health care. The Colorado senator has supported Republican efforts to overturn the Affordable Care Act of 2010, a.k.a. Obamacare, and his Democratic opponent in 2020 is almost certain to use health care and his opposition to the the policy against him.
In the meantime, Gardner finds himself continuing to face the impeachment issue and the very real possibility that — should Trump be indicted on articles of impeachment in the House of Representatives — he could be called upon to vote “guilty” or “not guilty” in a Senate trial. Voting “guilty” would be the kiss of death when it comes to Trump’s support; voting “not guilty,” however, could hurt him with anti-Trump voters in his state.
Curtis Hubbard of OnSight Public Affairs stated, “The impeachment inquiry is supported by strong majorities of Democrats and unaffiliated voters across Colorado. And support for impeaching and removing Trump from office is particularly strong in suburban swing counties near Denver. Taken together, that is a horrible combination for Republicans as the 2020 elections draw near.”
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