DENVER (AP) — Republican Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado is endorsing President Donald Trump, a reversal after he opposed Trump’s election in the final days of the 2016 race. Widely seen as the most vulnerable GOP incumbent in 2020, Gardner told a conservative publication in an article published Wednesday that he would back Trump this time.

“I know what Kamala Harris and I know what Bernie Sanders will do to Colorado, and that’s why I’ll be supporting the president,” Gardner told the Washington, D.C.-based Independent Journal Review, citing the California and Vermont senators who are possible contenders for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.

Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo. (credit: Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call)

Gardner’s office said the senator was not available for an interview Wednesday but confirmed the IJR account.

Hillary Clinton won Colorado by 5 percentage points in 2016, and Democrats swept every statewide race there in 2018 in what was widely seen as a rebuke to Trump.

But Gardner is squeezed by the realities of politics — though Republicans are a dwindling share of Colorado’s electorate, they are fiercely loyal to the president. Indeed, the two Republican senate candidates who did not endorse Trump in states that were competitive in 2016 — Joe Heck in Nevada and Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire — both lost.

WASHINGTON, DC – DECEMBER 13: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Governors elects in the Cabinet Room at the White House on December 13, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Gardner opposed Trump during the 2016 GOP primary. He eventually endorsed the reality show star, but he quickly rescinded that after a tape surfaced in which Trump bragged of sexually assaulting women. Gardner said he would write in the name of Mike Pence, Trump’s vice president, instead.

After 2016, however, Gardner became the head of the arm of the Republican Party that oversees Senate races. He helped engineer the party’s strategy of clinging to Trump in conservative states, which helped the GOP gain two Senate seats while losing control of the House of Representatives in November.

Gardner voted for Trump’s two Supreme Court nominees, the president’s tax bill and the failed effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Though Gardner has occasionally broken from Trump — chiding him for statements after a white supremacist rally in Virginia — he has generally been supportive of the president.

“It shows just how out of step he is with Colorado,” said David Pourshoushtari, a spokesman for the Colorado Democratic Party. “Cory Gardner will face the consequences on Election Day 2020.”

By NICHOLAS RICCARDI, Associated Press

(© Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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