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Politico profiles Colorado’s Cory Gardner as the man on the high wire

Author: Dan Njegomir - March 6, 2018 - Updated: March 6, 2018

Cory GardnerSen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., and other senators arrive to vote on the confirmation of Samuel Brownback, governor of Kansas and a former U.S. senator, to become the ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, at the Capitol in January. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

By the lights of Beltway-insider news outlet Politico, Colorado’s Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner is juggling chainsaws — while walking a tightrope. High above a pit of hungry alligators.

And still managing to smile through it all, keeping any fleeting, gloomy thoughts to himself.

His colleague John Cornyn — the Texas Republican and majority whip who once held Gardner’s high-pressure, high-stakes post as chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee — cut to the chase, telling the go-to online political mag’s Burgess Everett in a lengthy story this week: “He’s a brave man. … I admire him for being willing to take on that challenge.”

That challenge, in a nutshell, entails making deals on legislation with the same Democrats he is doggedly determined to undermine in their races back home — amid the curious chemistry of a Trump administration that seems half the time to be mounting a rear-guard action against its own fellow Republicans on Capitol Hill.

Of course, the administration itself has fostered what Politico (and everyone else) predicts will be an “anti-Trump Democratic wave election,” requiring Gardner to keep his distance at times. That, in turn, because, “Gardner is going to need bipartisan accomplishments to survive his own swing-state reelection race in 2020.”

It’s all part of what Politico’s Everett labels, “…the lonely existence of Cory Gardner.” Writes Everett:

One moment he’s working with Democrats on an immigration bill opposed by President Donald Trump and blasting the administration’s marijuana policies. The next he’s planning the political doom of those same Democrats and strategizing with Trump on how to keep the Senate in Republican hands.

Yet, the in-depth feature digs deeper to reveal Gardner so far, at least, seems no worse for the wear and tear. Sure, Everett points out, “It’s not exactly what the sunny, glad-handing pol was signing up for when he put in for the (NRSC chair’s) job just before the 2016 election.” And yet:

… Gardner seems comfortable with it. He waxes optimistically about the prospects of taking out (North Dakota Democratic U.S. Sen. Heidi) Heitkamp and the four other Democrats from deep red states, which would give the GOP its largest majority in decades.

At the top of a lengthy interview, he read headlines from POLITICO and other publications predicting the GOP’s impending doom in every election since 2010 — then bragged about the GOP’s position going into the midterms.

‘The states where we are winning are states that are incredibly ready for a Republican candidate to win. … This is an offensive cycle for us, and we have an opportunity to pick up seats that we shouldn’t have lost in the 2012 cycle.’

And the piece captures the ever-cautious Cory Gardner Colorado political observers know well:

Though Gardner never admits that his party’s prospects have declined due to Trump’s unpopularity and the failure to score top-tier candidates in states like Montana, he is realistic about the challenges he faces. When pressed on how many seats Republicans might be able to pick up, he does a brief impression of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, with his Kentucky drawl, saying that predicting Senate races is a fool’s errand.

Very much worth a read; here’s the link again.

Dan Njegomir

Dan Njegomir

Dan Njegomir is the opinion editor for Colorado Politics. A longtime journalist and more-than-25-year veteran of the Colorado political scene, Njegomir has been an award-winning newspaper reporter, an editorial page editor, a senior legislative staffer at the State Capitol and a political consultant.