Littwin: In search of sage to explain why savvy Cory Gardner endorsed toxic Donald Trump

(L-R) Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) pose or a photo around Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) as they arrive on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. for the inauguration ceremony of Donald J. Trump. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
(L-R) Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) pose or a photo around Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) as they arrive on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. for the inauguration ceremony of Donald J. Trump. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The big news from the U.S. Senate race in Colorado is not that Mike Johnston, a serious candidate, has just announced he’s getting in. We all knew he would get in, and that he would get in early — just as he did when he ran for governor and finished a passable third in the Dem primary. 

Given the level of Trump’s toxicity in Colorado — see the demise of Mike Coffman, who is apparently now running for Aurora mayor — it will be no surprise if half a dozen or more reasonably viable Democrats get in. 

But the far bigger news this week is that Cory Gardner is possibly considering getting out. Or if he’s not considering getting out, he’s desperate to try anything to keep his job — even going as far as to endorse Donald Trump nearly two years out from the 2020 election — a move from Mr. Smooth that makes absolutely no sense.

In a stunning interview with the Independent Journal Review, Gardner decided to endorse the pre-Mueller-Report Trump, the same Trump who is 19 points underwater in Colorado, the same Trump who lost to Hillary Clinton by five points in Colorado, the same Trump who was the overwhelming factor in the GOP’s across-the-board, midterm debacle in Colorado.

Gardner is endorsing now, he said, because it’s the “right thing to do for Colorado.” That’s what he said. See if you can follow the logic. By my logic, he’d get better results endorsing Bill Belichick.

“Look, there are things here — look, I’ve made it very clear that where I agree with the president, we will agree or where I disagree, we will disagree,” Gardner said. “But I’m going to fight like hell for Colorado, and we’ve done some good things for Colorado.”

“I know what Kamala Harris and I know what Bernie Sanders will do to Colorado, and that’s why I’ll be supporting the president,” Gardner also said.

So, he’s endorsing Trump when there will be two dozen or more Dems running — not just Bernie and Harris — and included on that list will probably be John Hickenlooper and maybe his good friend Michael Bennet. Bernie-phobia? Come on.

I know Gardner, to coin a phrase, believes the past is a foreign country — from which the words apparently do not translate — but you’ll remember that after the Access Hollywood groping tape, Gardner demanded that Trump drop out of the race. He has said he didn’t vote for Trump, but wrote in Mike Pence’s name instead. And he also said this: “I cannot and will not support someone who brags about degrading and assaulting women.”

In two years, Gardner has apparently gotten over his concern about degrading and assaulting women or maybe, just maybe, something else is at work.

The conventional wisdom — and virtually every other kind — has been that Gardner has to separate himself as much as humanly possible from Trump in order to get re-elected. So, why would he possibly embrace him?

Talking to the wise heads around the state, I’ve heard a number of possibilities. Maybe Gardner has decided not to run in 2020 and hopes this endorsement will help land him a big-money job outside of government. Does this make sense? By 2020, Trump may be many times more toxic than he is today. I’ve heard that Gardner might be worried about being primaried. It’s never too late for a Tancredo comeback, I guess. But let’s be honest, the Gardner endorsement will not hold up under close scrutiny from the Trump wing of the Republican Party. Every thing Gardner has ever said about Trump is a TV ad waiting to happen.

It has to be a primary because what else could it be? But how worried should Gardner really be? A Tancredo-like candidate — if there is such a thing – would never beat Gardner in a primary, even in the days of Trumpworld.

The Democrats are, of course, loving this. Former House speaker Crisanta Duran, who is widely expected to run, has already tweeted about Gardner’s endorsement. Another former House speaker, Andrew Romanoff, is considered a sure bet to run. Mike Johnston is already in. A couple of longer shots have announced. 

Who else? I’ve heard Joe Neguse rumors. If he had even one term under his belt, I’d credit them more, but maybe. I’ve heard rumors that Ed Perlmutter may have rediscovered the fire in his belly. OK, I doubt many Democratic voters would hold his strange departure from the governor’s race against him. Still, I’d be a little surprised. Former U.S. Attorney John Walsh is telling people he’s considering running. Sen. Kerry Donovan is reportedly thinking about it. I would expect (hope) that other prominent women are considering a run in a state that has yet to have a female senator or governor.

But my guess is that if John Hickenlooper fails to gain traction in his all-but-certain presidential bid, the Democratic establishment, from Sen. Chuck Schumer down, would be pressuring Hick to get in. I’ve heard that Hickenlooper has told people he has no interest in the Senate and, if the presidential thing doesn’t work out, he might prefer a cabinet post. The truth is, if Hick were to run and to win and the Dems were to regain the Senate, he would have every chance to become a rising star in the party.

Look, I know it’s early to even be thinking seriously about all this stuff. But put the blame on Gardner. It looks like someone has to be in charge of thinking about what the normally-savvy Gardner — probably the most vulnerable GOP senator in 2020 — could possibly be thinking. As far as Gardner’s chance for re-election, Trump is the worst thing that could have happened to him. Of course, he’s also the worst thing that could happen to the rest of us.



  1. 1. He is trying to avoid a primary. If there is a serious primary threat, then he will have to stick his nose further up The Dumpster®’s ass. Which will just make the general worse for him.
    2. He needs the campaign money. His days of Koch Sucking may be over. If the Kochs sit out this election, then Smiling Cory (who wants to take away your Medicare) is going to need money from the GOPer Establishment (Ronna Romney McDaniel).
    3. He truly believes that Mango Man is going to be reëlected and Cory will lose his way into a cabinet post.
    4. This is all a setup to get a job at a RWNJ think tank.

  2. Ed Perlmutter LOST a LOT of support I believe by his joining the gang of Dem clowns who wanted to bust Pelosi and keep her from the Speakership. I personally railed at him since I’d supported him every time he ran in my district. NOT one second more!

  3. For me , Perlmutter is a no go after being part of the anti-Pelosi squad. The governor’s race debacle doesn’t help.

  4. Why in the world would The Mutter be in electoral danger by standing with the majority of dems (and the country) in opposing Pelosi’s pro-apartheid stance in relation to the Palestinians?

    Doesn’t smell right.

    If he was taking a stance on an issue that a majority of the country doesn’t favor…like being anti-abortion, anti-equal rights for the alphabet community, or pro-wall, for instance, I’d understand the sentiment.

    But since his views on that particular Pelosi Scotoma are shared by the majority of Americans, it kind of sounds like some folks are stirring the pot. If it walks and talks like a Concern Troll, it might in fact be a Concern Troll.

    Sorry…I ain’t buying it.

  5. Perhaps Gardner thinks this is a triple bank shot that will not only prevent a primary opponent, but should Mueller’s report condemn Trump, he can withdraw his endorsement in a fit of “righteous indignation” for brownie points with “Centrists”. Conversely, if Mueller’s report merely wings Trump, but does not hurt his popularity (such as it is), then Cory’s early endorsement and “loyalty” could win him a gold star with Republicans (for whatever it is worth).

    But rather than dwell on Cory’s inscrutable machinations, I’m actually more impressed with the late Senator McCain, who in this picture accurately portrays Gardner’s true nature by doing something that McCain had the utmost difficulty doing — raising his arm above his head (fortunately, Cory isn’t very tall).

  6. I think Sen. Cory Gardner endorsed Trump because he knows that if he doesn’t, his base will abandon him in the general election.

    And anti-Trump senate candidates didn’t do so well in 2018.

    Also, no thinking unaffiliated or GOP voters will vote for a man-hating, infanticide, power greedy Socialist for president in 2020.

    Finally, there is better than a 50% chance that Trump won’t run and Gardner’s endorsement of him will be ignored by voters, if not forgotten by Socialists.

  7. I’ve wondered whether he’s in a Trump administration courtship and bucking to replace Mike Pence as Trump’s 2020 running mate.

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