Senator Cory Gardner votes to acquit Trump
President Trump visited Colorado on February 20, 2020.
In early February 2020, the conclusion of the senate impeachment trial against Donald Trump resulted in the president’s acquittal from all charges, abuse of power, and obstruction of congress. All 47 senate Democrats and only one Republican, Mitt Romney, voted to impeach the president, far short of the two thirds majority needed for removal. Among the long list of Republicans who cast an acquittal vote is Colorado junior senator Cory Gardner.
Republicans currently hold a majority in the national senate but must defend 23 of their seats up for re-election in 2020 (against 12 democratic seats up the same year). Of those 23, Cory Gardner is one of the most vulnerable.
According to Morning Consult, Gardner is the 6th most unpopular senator in the country with a 37 percent approval rating. Senator Gardner’s re-election chances narrow as more and more migrants from urban areas, such as in Texas and California, increase the young liberal population of Colorado. This blue wave first emerged in 2016, two years after Gardner’s 2014 election to the senate, when Colorado cast their electoral votes toward Hillary Clinton. Then, in 2018, state Democrats flipped a U.S. House congressional district and held three more, giving them four of the seven seats in the House.
The widening base of Colorado Democrats will likely vote blue regardless of Republican Cory Gardner’s policy decisions or opposition to Trump. Many see Gardner’s vote to acquit, as well as his endorsement of Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign, as a desperate appeal to his base in order to survive the upcoming election cycle. The incumbent senator hopes his support for the president will secure him the vote from the Trump supporting Colorado right and give him the edge over a party split between establishment candidate John Hickenlooper and sea of progressives like Trish Zornio and Andrew Romanoff.
This strategy does raise concerns among voters who feel Gardner no longer represents the interests of Colorado. CU Denver student and Democratic voter Nick said, “I feel like he’s no longer doing what’s best for us in the Midwest.” According to a monthly poll from Morning Consult, the January 2020 Colorado disapproval rating for President Trump is 53 percent (down from 57 percent in December) and the approval rating is 43 percent (up from 39 percent in December). These numbers seem to reflect a consistent sentiment among registered voters in Colorado; the approval rating for the President in Colorado has not been higher than the disapproval rating since March 2017.
Gardner’s new support for the President comes as some surprise when considering campaign promises the senator made in 2014 and his criticism of Trump four years ago. The senator initially endorsed Trump over Clinton in the 2016 election saying “no good Republican could ever support Hillary Clinton for president,” but withdrew the endorsement after Trump bragged about sexual misconduct in a leaked Access Hollywood clip. Now, after Gardner voted against witnesses in the impeachment trial, progressive senate candidate and Gardner-opponent Andrew Romanoff criticized the senator for his 2014 promise “when my party is wrong, I’ll say it.” In a video posted to twitter, Romanoff said, “apparently just not out loud.”