COLORADO SPRINGS — Cory Gardner decisively tied his reelection bid to President Donald Trump on Thursday, debuting a campaign resume filled with what he said are the pair’s shared accomplishments on behalf of Colorado.
“When we look at what we’ve been able to do for Colorado, with the help of President Trump and his entire team, the results are simply astounding,” the Republican U.S. senator said at a rally for the president in Colorado Springs. “These things happen because President Trump and I work together for Colorado.”
The list Gardner outlined included relocating significant federal agencies to Colorado and funding infrastructure projects in the state. He also highlighted the state’s booming economy.
MORE: A look at the Coloradans supporting Donald Trump and why they adore the president
“He’s been with us 100%,” Trump said, heaping back praise. “Cory is a champion for the people of Colorado.”
Trump and Gardner shared the same stage and gushed over each other at the 8,100-seat Broadmoor World Arena before a packed crowd that began gathering more than 15 hours before the event, completing a once-improbable union that came four years after the senator refused to vote for the party’s nominee in 2016.
Gardner distanced himself from Trump after the release of an “Access Hollywood” recording of Trump bragging about sexual assault, saying that he couldn’t “support someone who brags about degrading and assaulting women.” But after Trump was elected, Gardner began aligning himself with the president and later endorsed Trump’s reelection bid last year.
Gardner’s campaign, which is facing difficult odds in November, now plans to spend the next eight months telling Colorado voters about his accomplishments in the Senate and explaining how Trump helped make them possible. The strategy is to use the story of their relationship to raise Gardner’s slumping approval numbers and cast Democrats as radical socialists trying to undo Republicans’ accomplishments.
MORE: Does Cory Gardner have a breaking point when it comes to Trump? The political climate suggests he better not.
“Look at what we’ve done for Colorado,” he told The Colorado Sun in an interview hours before Thursday’s rally. “We now have the (Bureau of Land Management) headquarters in Colorado. We’re just a few miles away from Space Command in Colorado Springs. We’ll begin construction on a pipeline that will provide drinking water to 50,000 people. We have an economy in Colorado that is thriving.”
He added: “These are things that for decades could have been done by others but were never done. We’ve been able to get them done working with this president.”
Democrats note that Gardner isn’t the only Colorado leader to press the White House on these priorities.
Colorado U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet and Gov. Jared Polis, both Democrats, also pushed the Trump administration to relocate the BLM to Grand Junction and place U.S. Space Command headquarters in the state.
In fact, Polis met with Trump on Air Force One before Thursday’s rally to make his case on bringing Space Command to Colorado Springs.
“Colorado is the perfect home for Space Command and I was excited to have the opportunity to remind President Trump why that’s true,” Polis said in a statement, just hours after he compared Trump to a demagogue in a fundraising email.
Polls show Trump, Gardner are unpopular in Colorado
The challenge for Gardner is whether people will listen. A new poll shows that Colorado voters don’t look favorable on the first-term senator and the president.
More than half — 56% — of registered voters in Colorado disapprove of Trump’s job performance, according to the Mountaineer Poll, a survey from liberal advocacy group ProgressNow Colorado and Democratic pollster Global Strategy Group, and only 44% approve.
Gardner’s job rating also is negative with 48% disapproval and 37% approval, according to the poll, which has a margin of error of 3.4 percentage points. Another 15% of voters are unsure.
The numbers for both are essentially unchanged from earlier Democratic and Republican polls of likely 2020 voters. But Trump’s numbers may hold a silver lining: The survey was conducted Jan. 31 to Feb. 4, when the impeachment trial was occurring in the U.S. Senate, and his ratings improved ever-so-slightly from a poll in July.
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Democratic pollster Andrew Baumann said the numbers are bad for the senator ahead of November. “Gardner has managed to achieve a difficult trifecta: he has unified – and motivated – Democrats against him, alienated unaffiliated voters and still left his own base fractured,” he said.
Trump’s campaign dismissed the polls on Thursday and called Colorado a top 2020 target.
In his interview with The Sun, Gardner seemed to acknowledge that he will have to overcome political headwinds to get his message out.
“People need to take their partisan hat off and they need to look at what we’ve been able to do,” he said.
Republicans want Gardner to be vocal advocate for Trump
But if Democrats and unaffiliated voters won’t listen to his list of the accomplishments he’s made with Trump, Republicans may be more receptive. Several who spoke with The Sun at Thursday’s rally said they felt Gardner needs to do more to align himself with the president.
“I think he needs to be closer to the president,” said Jess Loban, a small business owner in Castle Rock, where he also sits on the town council. “I think those changes have started to happen. We had a whole string of tweets from the president in support of Cory Gardner.”
Vicki Hannon, a flight attendant from Castle Rock who was wearing a large Trump hat, said she thinks Gardner is doing a good job, but there’s room for improvement in his relationship with the president.
“I think he could be a little tighter,” Hannon said. “I’d like to see him out there more.”
Meanwhile, Republicans who said they aren’t closely following Gardner said they were reassured by the fact that he was appearing at Thursday’s rally.
“I honestly don’t know a whole lot” about Gardner, said Leanne Perry, a 52-year-old mother from Vail, “but he’s here with the president today.”
Kevin Lewis of Colorado Springs, a 57-year-old entrepreneur, echoed that sentiment.
“If Trump supports Cory,” Lewis said. “I support Cory.”
U.S. Rep. Ken Buck, a Windsor lawmaker who is also chairman of the Colorado Republican Party, spoke at the rally about the shared accomplishments of Gardner and Trump. Buck said Gardner has stood with the president.
“It’s absolutely unfair,” he said of Republicans who think Gardner should do more to back Trump.
In an interview with The Sun after the speech, Buck said Gardner “has done a great job of supporting the great accomplishments of this administration. You look at the Supreme Court justices, you look at the tax cuts, you look at impeachment, everything else, he’s there for the president. I just don’t see where some people feel like they’re going to get more.”
Even Trump gave a nod to Gardner’s loyalty, saying the senator’s support never waivers, including through the president’s impeachment trial. “Cory was with us all the way,” Trump said in a speech that lasted nearly two hours.
The Trump campaign said the president supports Gardner and that Thursday’s rally was a prime example of that. In fact, that was the point.
“There’s no doubt about it,” Kayleigh McEnany, national press secretary for the Trump campaign, said Thursday. “This is a show of unity.”
Staff writer John Frank contributed to this report.