Joel Gehrke --- The National Review
All was peace and quiet in a news truck north of Denver, where an unsuspecting reporter was eating his lunch until he caught the eye of a mischievous state representative.
“There just comes this pounding on the window, and [the reporter] said he practically jumped out of his skin, and he looked and it was Cory Gardner, and Cory was just laughing that he had gotten him,” the Denver Post’s Lynn Bartels, recounting a years-old story about Gardner’s prank on another reporter, tells National Review Online. “That’s just how people view Cory, in the media or elsewhere. He’s just a great guy.”
“He’s not afraid to push the conservative agenda but does it with a pleasant message, a smile on his face,” added state senator Ted Harvey, who worked with Gardner in the Colorado legislature.
Under different circumstances, Gardner’s grin might not warrant much attention. This year, though, political observers on both sides of the aisle can’t stop talking about that likability, as Gardner’s disciplined, jovial campaign has brought the Republican to the cusp of victory in a state where President Obama and Senate Democrats earned victories in 2008, 2010, and 2012.
“Even Kansas and South Dakota look more competitive,” Democratic political consultant Steve Welchert, referring to red-state Senate races that Republicans are favored to win, tells NRO.
He has a point. The last six public polls have shown Gardner with a lead over Democratic senator Mark Udall, one by as much as seven points, despite months of Democratic attacks.
Gardner’s strength comes as no surprise to Coloradans who worked with him in the state Capitol.
“Good candidates are hard to find,” state House majority leader Amy Stephens, who decided not to run for the Senate after Gardner told her he might get into the race, tells NRO. “It’s rare to find someone who is smart, gets policy, can raise money, and is likable.”