That all changed when U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died in mid-September. The prospect of a strong conservative majority court energized Democrats and boosted his fundraising and poll margins, putting the race out of reach for Republicans.
In the end, Gardner’s strategy never permanently moved the needle.
Claire Roberts, a 38-year-old Denver Democrat, voted for Hickenlooper on Tuesday largely because she thinks Gardner is “a Trump puppet.” She said she especially disapproved of Gardner’s recent vote to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Hickenlooper’s campaign expected Gardner to sell more of his record, but the Republican stayed focused on his public lands work.
“I don’t think he ran a good campaign,” said Alvina Vasquez, a Democratic consultant who ran a dark-money group against Gardner this cycle. “Cory Gardner voters are Trump voters, but he didn’t draw anybody new in.”
Earlier in the campaign, Hickenlooper ran into some trouble during the Democratic primary against former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff. But, in the end, he was able to glide toward his party’s nomination.
From there, Hickenlooper spent the general election talking about his record as governor helping guide the state through disasters like fires and floods, all while taking aim at Gardner’s record, especially his votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
Because of the coronavirus crisis, his public schedule was limited. During three debates with Gardner, Hickenlooper was able to dodge the incumbent’s relentless punches and stay on his feet. And Gardner only confirmed the attacks against him when he called Trump an ethical and moral man.
Staff writers Jennifer Brown and Erica Breunlin and Sun correspondent Sandra Fish contributed to this report.
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