Oct 9, 2020 | NEWS | By Evan Rao | Illustration by Grace Nedelman

After a fiery hour of debate hosted by Pueblo Community College, Cory Gardner and John Hickenlooper have set a combative tone. For the most part, Cory Gardner (R) led the offensive, with Hickenlooper (D) defending against a slew of accusations.

Gardner sought to paint Hickenlooper as an elitist Washington insider who is more interested in political maneuvering than working for the interests of the people of Colorado. He said, “It’s a very clear contrast between somebody who believes the people of Colorado are first — that’s what I believe — and somebody who believes their own self interests are first and they want to go to Washington to line their own pockets with what they’ve done the last eight years as governor.”

Gardner accused Hickenlooper of violating ethics laws, using taxpayer money for a defense attorney, traveling by private jets, closing a coal plant, and accepting large amounts of corporate money for his campaign.

Hickenlooper sought to deflect these accusations by pointing to Cory Gardner’s extensive record in Washington, which he characterized as a tenure defined by governmental inefficiency and unresponsiveness. He emphatically responded that, “Cory’s been there for four years in the House and six in the Senate, and as close as I can tell, it just gets worse and worse and worse.”

Hickenlooper further emphasized Gardner’s desire to end the Affordable Care Act (ACA) without a substantive replacement plan, and said that “in those 10 years of trying to get rid of it, where is the replacement? This is complicated stuff, this is people’s lives, and you can’t just smooth it all over.”

Gardner’s record on the ACA perhaps was Hickenlooper’s most stinging offensive against Gardner. Currently, the race is Hickenlooper’s to lose, as he leads Gardner by an average of 7.8 percentage points in the polls. As this is the first of four debates, Gardner hopes that strong, combative performances will help him narrow the edge Hickenlooper currently has.

Beyond Colorado, this election has widespread implications for the U.S. Senate. If Gardner wins, he is all but certain to continue supporting President Trump’s agenda, including voting to confirm Amy Coney Barrett as a Supreme Court Justice.

On the other hand, if Hickenlooper wins, he would help Democrats retake the Senate, moving closer to the 51 seat majority. This would give Democrats power to enact a variety of decisions, including a vote to expand the Supreme Court.

As Colorado shifts from being a swing state to a more reliably blue state, and the national political climate sees Trump negatively viewed by most citizens, Hickenlooper looks to be in a good position to win the upcoming election. Whether the next three debates provide a boost to Gardner remains to be seen.

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