Here’s why Cory Gardner and other GOP senators are still ‘all-in for Trump’ — even if it costs them the election
Recent polls have not been looking good for Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, who is trailing his Democratic opponent, former Gov. John Hickenlooper, by 9%, according to Morning Consult as well as Public Policy Polling. Trumpism is not serving Gardner well, begging the question: why is the Colorado Republican doubling down on his support of President Donald Trump even though it appears likely to cost him the election? Never Trump conservative journalist Jonathan V. Last answers that question in an article published in The Bulwark over Labor Day Weekend. And Last’s explanation applies not only to Gardner, but also, to Sen. Martha McSally of Arizona, Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa and other incumbent GOP senators in swing states who refuse to say a word against the president.
“Gardner is running behind Trump in a state that Trump is going to lose,” Last observes. “And yet, Gardner remains almost wholly beholden to Trump. Why is that?”
Last, citing polling data from Morning Consult, stresses that Gardner’s “political career is over” in Colorado — where “Democrats loathe him, independents are repelled by him, and Republicans see him as a cuck for not supporting Trump from the start.”
“He almost certainly realizes that there is no path forward for him in Colorado politics,” Last argues. “The state is changing, demographically and politically, and he’s on the wrong side of everything: he’s not where the main body of voters are, and he’s not where the party base are, either. He’s both too Trump and not QAnon enough…. So why is Gardner still all-in for Trump?”
The answer, according to Last: Gardner is putting “party over country.” Gardner, Last emphasizes, is the type of Republican who sees “the Republican Party as a higher priority than the country itself” — and when he loses to Hickenlooper, he “is going to have to make due with raking in the Benjamins in the private-sector sinecures reserved for washed-up politicos.”
Last doesn’t discuss McSally in his Bulwark article on Gardner. But taking the conservative journalist’s arguments a step further, one could say that Gardner is thinking long-term: even if he is “washed up” in Colorado, he could still have a place in Republican politics in general — perhaps as a pundit at Fox News, perhaps writing books, perhaps hosting a radio program. The same applies to McSally. Although poll after poll shows her losing to Democrat Mark Kelly in Arizona’s 2020 U.S. Senate race, she isn't about to criticize Trump because she knows there could be money-making opportunities for her down the road in the right-wing media.
After being voted out of office in 2006, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum was never elected to public office again yet remained a prominent figure in right-wing politics. CNN, in the Trump era, has often featured Santorum as a pro-Trump pundit. And former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the late Sen. John McCain’s running mate in the 2008 presidential election, made millions of dollars as a pundit even though she never became vice president and never ran for political office again after 2008. Palin is an embarrassment, but in the right-wing media, she is taken seriously.
The “private-sector sinecures reserved for washed-up politicos,” as Last describes them, can be incredibly lucrative. Palin is the butt of jokes outside of the GOP/Fox News/AM talk radio bubble, but that hasn’t stopped her from making millions of dollars.
If recent polls are accurate, Trumpism will cause Gardner and McSally to be voted out of office in November — even if Trump himself manages to pull off a narrow victory in the Electoral College. But the right-wing media often find ways for wingnuts to prosper after they lose elections, from Fox News appearances and AM talk radio shows to book deals. And cable news viewers will probably be seeing a lot of Gardner and McSally in 2021 no matter how badly they lose in November.