Colorado prepares for contentious Senate debate: Here's what to expect

Colorado prepares for contentious Senate debate: Here's what to expect

October 13, 2020

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Incumbent Republican Sen. Cory Gardner and Democratic challenger John Hickenlooper will meet Tuesday for the final debate in the closely tracked Colorado Senate race.

Gardner has been trailing in the polls leading up to the Nov. 3 general election and has used the previous debates as an opportunity to try and gain on Hickenlooper, the state's former governor, by drawing a stark contrast between the two candidates and by going after the former governor on “ethics violations.”

Hickenlooper, in turn, has pointed to Gardner’s flip-flop stance on the appointment of a Supreme Court justice during an election year and will likely focus on the potential threat a new justice could pose in overturning the Affordable Care Act. 

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Tuesday’s debate is sure to be another round of fiery exchanges as Hickenlooper attempts to flip the Colorado seat and work towards gaining a Democratic majority in the Senate.

A spokesperson for Hickenlooper’s campaign told Fox News that the Democratic candidate will use the final debate to focus on Gardner’s alleged reputation as a “rubber stamp” for President Trump, including his recent support for the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.

In March 2016, Gardner released a statement siding with the GOP led Senate in blocking President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, which claimed, “Our next election is too soon and the stakes are too high; the American people deserve a role in this process.”

But Gardner then threw his support behind Barrett, who was nominated by Trump less than six weeks before the Nov. 3 election – prompting election analysts to suggest the decision could hurt his chances of re-election to the Senate.

Hickenlooper is expected to go after Gardner on this decision again Tuesday, in an attempt to show the voters that the current Republican senator has “no record to defend.”

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Hickenlooper's campaign says the candiate will also highlight his time as a mayor and governor in the attempt to try and unite Coloradans – a strategy that Gardner’s campaign has said it will exploit.

During the last debate Gardner repeatedly told Hickenlooper, “It’s not about you,” while attempting to portray the former governor as being more concerned about his political career than Coloradans.

“John Hickenlooper is about himself. He can’t answer for his ethical violations, he can’t answer for his failures of leadership,” Gardner told Fox News. “I look forward to driving that contrast.”

Voters can expect to see Gardner juxtapose the candidates in an attempt to portray Hickenlooper as a self-involved politician.

"We fully expect John Hickenlooper to continue dodging questions,” Meghan Graf, a spokesperson for Gardner’s campaign said Tuesday. “When Cory and John are side-by-side on stage, the choice could not be more clear – Cory will continue to be a voice for Colorado and John will continue to show Coloradans he cannot answer simple questions on the issues."

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A  Colorado Politics/9News poll released Thursday found that Hickenlooper has a nine point lead over Gardner, though the poll was taken before the first statewide-broadcast debate Friday.

Tuesday’s debate will also air statewide from Fort Collins at 6 p.m. MT

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