A recent Senate campaign ad touts the candidate’s record protecting public lands and national parks and how that’s pleased environmentalists. One ad features his work getting masks from overseas to protect people from the coronavirus and shows his state’s Democratic governor thanking him for his effort. There is no ad highlighting an endorsement or praise from President Donald Trump.
It’s not a typical summer ad campaign from a Republican incumbent fighting for reelection in a highly polarized political environment. But it may be Cory Gardner’s best hope of remaining Colorado’s junior senator after the fall elections – and the only hope Republicans have of hanging onto control of the Senate, experts say.
“Some of (the GOP candidates) will definitely outperform” Trump at the ballot box, with endangered Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine the most likely to do so, says Amy Walter, national editor of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. “The question is, at what point is the weight too heavy for them to reach the surface? It’s the difference between being able to pull a 5-pound weight and being able to pull a 200-pound weight. He’s a 200-pound weight.”
Cartoons on the 2020 Election
Trump, once feared by GOP candidates who watched the president thwart the political futures of those Republicans deemed not sufficiently loyal, are finding he may bring them down this fall. And what’s worse for vulnerable Republicans running for House and Senate seats, separating themselves from the man whose poll numbers are plummeting may be more damaging than hitching themselves to his hip.
Trump has been famously impatient with those who break ranks with him, notes Floyd Ciruli, a veteran pollster in Colorado. But “the real problem is not so much Trump. It’s his base,” Ciruli adds. “There are so many Republicans who don’t care about the Republican Party. They only care about Donald Trump. They are his people. And that is Cory’s problem.”
“A rising presidential tide lifts all boats – and the same is true in the other direction.”
Trump’s ability to mobilize his devoted base made him a kingmaker – or candidate-killer – earlier on. Republican Rep. Mark Sanford lost his 2018 primary in South Carolina after Trump tweeted against him. That same year, GOP Rep. Martha Roby was forced into a runoff for her Alabama seat amid anger over her October 2016 remarks that Trump should drop out of the race because of the “Access Hollywood” tape in which he bragged about sexually assaulting women without consequence. Trump critics Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona and Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee chose not to run again.
But this year, Trump’s taunts and plaudits have not been as effective. GOP Rep. Scott Tipton of Colorado and Rep. Denver Riggleman of Virginia lost their renomination bids, and a Trump-endorsed House candidate for a North Carolina seat lost to 24-year-old Madison…