The Colorado senate race is shaping up to be one of the most competitive contests of 2020.
Incumbent Republican Cory Gardner is set to face Democrat John Hickenlooper on November 3rd in a consequential election that will undoubtedly help decide which party controls the Senate in January 2021.
Let’s take a look at the two candidates that will be on the ballot on November 3rd.
Cory Garder (R)
Cory Gardner entered the political sphere as a member of the Colorado House of Representatives after being appointed in 2005.
He won the seat in 2006 and served until 2010 when he announced he would be running for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. He would go on to win that race over incumbent Democrat Betsy Market, 52% to 41%.
After serving two terms in the House, Cory Gardner decided to declare his intent to run for the U.S. Senate. After winning the Republican primary, Gardner narrowly defeated incumbent Democrat Senator Mark Udall, 48% to 46%, in the 2014 midterms.
During his time in the Senate, Gardner has generally voted down-the-line conservative; however, on some issues—most notably, immigration—he considers himself a moderate. In 2019, the Lugar Center and Georgetown’s McCourt School of Public Policy ranked Gardner, the fifth most bipartisan senator.
John Hickenlooper (D)
John Hickenlooper’s first venture into politics came in 2003 when he ran for mayor of Denver. As mayor Hickenlooper, or Mayor Hick as he was known, was widely considered exceptionally successful.
TIME Magazine ranked him among America’s top five big-city mayors, and Denver’s 5280 Magazine said, “As far as real-life political fairy tales go, it was just about impossible to trump Mayor Hickenlooper. He was a new kind of natural, one of those unicorn-rare, truly apolitical politicians that career politicos so often and so fraudulently claim to be.”
The citizens of Denver rewarded Hickenlooper with 88% of the vote in his 2007 reelection campaign.
In 2010, “Mayor Hick” launched his campaign for governor of Colorado and won by fifteen points. During his two terms as governor of Colorado, Hickenlooper not only boosted job creation in his state but also served as vice chair of the Democratic Governors Association, a member of the Western Governors’ Association, and the chairman of the National Governor’s Association from 2014 to 2015.
Hickenlooper did not run for a third term as governor due to state constitutional mandates but instead mounted an unsuccessful bid for the 2020 Democratic nominee for president.
In The Nutshell
The most recent poll for the Colorado senate race came from Morning Consult and was released on July 28th. The poll showed John Hickenlooper (D)with a 6 point lead over Cory Garder (R).
While six points is a relatively solid lead in a race RealClearPolitics considers a “toss-up,” it is a decrease from the 11 point lead Hickenlooper held at the beginning of July according to a Public Policy poll.
Gardner’s polling increase might have something to do with his decision to tie himself to President Trump. “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,” Gardner said at a February rally for the president in Colorado Springs. “These things happen because President Trump and I work together for Colorado.”
On July 1st, Joe Biden held a 17 point lead over Donald Trump. That lead was down to 13 points by the beginning of August, and the trend lines seem to be showing a slow closing of the gap between the two presidential candidates.
Of course, correlation doesn’t always equal causation, but in the era of nationalized politics, it appears that if Trump does well, so does Gardner.
That being said, it is highly unlikely Trump will be able to win Colorado. The Cook Political Report rates Colorado a “likely Democratic” state for the 2020 presidential election. This shouldn’t come as too much as a surprise given the recent electoral history of the state.
A Republican hadn’t carried Colorado since George W. Bush in 2000, and Hillary Clinton won the state by five points in 2016.
In the end, Gardner’s Senate seat looks like it could be a pick-up for Democrats and one seat closer to their first majority since 2015.
Business Insider said it this way: “Colorado’s shift towards Democrats and Hickenlooper’s particularly strong track record winning statewide elections as Democrat makes this seat the most promising pick-up opportunity for Democrats and a must-win seat in the party’s quest to take back the Senate.”