Colorado's Cory Gardner is widely regarded as one of the most vulnerable Republican senators up for election in 2020 in part because of the blue Democratic wave that swept through the state last November.
Experts believe his strategy to beat the odds will involve trying to establish his independence from President Donald Trump, who's hardly Colorado's most popular politician, without alienating the chief executive's base — a process that's well under way. But maintaining this balance will be difficult given his established and lengthening record of enabling The Donald. Gardner has only weighed in against one major Trump nominee to date over the president's two years in office.
On a number of occasions, he was the deciding vote.
Of course, Gardner tends to back the vast majority of other Trump positions, too. According to FiveThirtyEight, he votes with the President 90.7 percent of the time — not the most often of any Republican (several, including Mississippi's Cindy Hyde-Smith, have notched perfect 100s), but far higher than several (the score for Kentucky's Rand Paul is 73.2 percent). And while Gardner's occasionally been critical of Trump's foreign policy moves (in December, he called for the President to cancel planned meetings with North Korea to increase pressure on leader Kim Jong Un), he's more apt to offer attaboys.
One recent example: Gardner issued a statement praising President Trump's weekend proposal to end the government shutdown, which asks for Democrats to give him $5.7 billion for his Mexico border wall/collection of steel slats in exchange for a three-year reprieve involving participants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Gardner voted for it and the rival Democratic measure that would have ended the ongoing partial federal shutdown without funding the wall.
Talk about trying to have it both ways.
When it comes to nominees, though, Gardner tends to capitulate to President Trump no matter the controversy level of the individual in question. He blessed choices such as Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt (who subsequently resigned amid scandal) and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh (even though a complaint about the judge's alleged impropriety was sent to his office).
Indeed, the only Trump nominee to earn a thumbs-down was Robert Lighthizer, the president's pick to be United States Trade Representative. Circa May 2017, Gardner explained his reasoning like so: "I could not support Robert Lighthizer’s nomination to become the United States Trade Representative because I’m afraid his policies could hurt Colorado’s farmers and ranchers. In light of the current agricultural crisis facing much of rural America, if we are not open to new trade opportunities, farmers and ranchers in Colorado and across the country will continue to struggle to make ends meet. We have to allow our agricultural products to flow to markets around the world and negotiate fair deals that will boost agriculture exports. Although I did not support Lighthizer’s nomination today, I am committed to working with him to advance the interests of Colorado’s agriculture community."
Gardner paid no political price with the GOP for his move, since Lighthizer was overwhelmingly confirmed anyway. But voters in 2020 may be more critical.
Continue to see Gardner's votes on major Trump nominees, as tracked by VoteSmart.org.
Nomination of Justin George Muzinich to be Deputy Director of the Department of the Treasury
Dec. 11, 2018
Nomination of Jonathan A. Kobes to the Eighth Circuit Court
Dec. 6, 2018
Nomination of Kathleen Laura Kraninger to be the Director of the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection
Oct. 6, 2018
Nomination of Brett M. Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court of the United States
July 18, 2018
Nomination of Andrew S. Oldham to be United States Circuit Judge for the 5th Circuit
July 17, 2018
Nomination of James Blew to be Assistant Secretary for Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development for the Department of Education
July 11, 2018
Nomination of Brian Allen Benczkowski to be Assistant Attorney General Senate
May 17, 2018
Nomination of Gina Haspel to be Director of the Central Intelligence Agency
April 26, 2018
Nomination of Mike Pompeo to be Secretary of State
April 19, 2018
Nomination of James Bridenstine to be Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration
April 12, 2018
Nomination of Andrew Wheeler to be Deputy Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency
Jan. 24, 2018
Nomination of Samuel Dale Brownback to be Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom
Nomination of Terry Branstad to be Ambassador of the United States to the People's Republic of China
May 11, 2017
Nomination of Robert Lighthizer to be a United States Trade Representative Senate
May 2, 2017
Nomination of Jay Clayton to be a Member of the Securities and Exchange Commission
April 27, 2017
Nomination of Alexander Acosta to be Secretary of Labor
April 7, 2017
Nomination of Neil M. Gorsuch to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
March 23, 2017
Nomination of David Friedman to be Ambassador of the United States of America to Israel
Feb. 17, 2017
Nomination of Scott Pruitt to be Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency
Feb. 13, 2017
Nomination of Steven T. Mnuchin to be Secretary of the Treasury
Feb. 10, 2017
Nomination of Thomas Price to be Secretary of Health and Human Services
Feb. 8, 2017
Nomination of Jeff Sessions to be Attorney General
Feb. 7, 2017
Nomination of Elisabeth Prince DeVos to be Secretary of Education
Feb. 1, 2017
Nomination of Rex W. Tillerson to be Secretary of State