The Republican incumbent’s approval rating hit its high mark in 2017 and fell ahead of the race against Democrat John Hickenlooper, a new analysis shows
In the first half of 2017, U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner celebrated the confirmation of Colorado native Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. He introduced legislation to move the federal public lands agency to Colorado. And he sponsored a series of bipartisan bills to improve access to banking for the state’s marijuana companies and boost funding for rural hospitals.
Since then, his stock has slid precipitously, according to an analysis of survey data by The Colorado Sun. By 2019, as many Colorado voters approved of his job performance as disapproved, and now polls consistently show him in negative territory.
To political observers, the fall in the Republican senator’s approval since he took office in 2015 is pretty much traced to a single source: President Donald Trump. The controversies that surrounded the White House and the president’s confrontational style didn’t sit well with voters. Six months into his first year, Trump’s rating took the same nose dive and never fully recovered.
“In some ways Sen. Gardner is at the mercy of forces that are beyond his control,” said Ryan Winger, director of data analysis and research for Magellan Strategies, a Republican polling firm in Colorado. “When he was first elected in 2014, it was pre-Trump. It may as well have been 200 years ago in terms of the political environment.”
The new environment showcases the challenge ahead for the first-term senator’s reelection bid as the race started in earnest Wednesday with former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper’ overwhelming win in the Democratic Party primary.
The Hickenlooper campaign highlighted polling averages showing Gardner trailing his opponent by a larger margin than any of the four other Republican incumbent senators in what the Cook Political Report marks as toss-up races.
And a Public Policy Polling survey released Wednesday shows Hickenlooper leading Gardner 51% to 40%. The Democratic firm found 9% were undecided in the poll, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points. The survey was paid for by End Citizens United and Let America Vote, groups that endorsed Hickenlooper in April.
The 11-point deficit for the Republican incumbent actually ties his best showing since August 2019, according to The Sun’s review of polling. In the hypothetical matchups, Gardner trailed Hickenlooper by double digits in six polls released between August 2019 and this week.