GREENWOOD VILLAGE, Colo. (CBS4) – Former Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley is the first Republican heavyweight to stump for Sen. Cory Gardner in the 2020 election cycle.

Nikki Haley and Cory Gardner (credit: CBS)

“I am here because I believe in Cory Gardner. I am here because I don’t want Republicans to lose control of the Senate,” Haley told an invitation-only crowd in Greenwood Village.

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She is one of the few Republicans who can appeal to both supporters of President Donald Trump — who think Gardner isn’t pro-Trump enough — and suburban women, who are never-Trump.

“The president trusts him, the Senate trusts him, and those of us who worked in the cabinet, we all trust him and so … I think what suburban women and all voters look for is someone they can trust regardless because they want to know regardless of who’s president, regardless of what happens in the election, that they have someone who has their back and I think they’ve seen not only by what he’s said but by what he’s done that he’s really definitely got Coloradans’ backs.”

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Haley and Gardner talked for about an hour about how they both grew up in small towns and understand the concerns of rural Americans and how they worked together closely on foreign policy. They even shared funny Trump stories. Haley recalled Trump’s first address to the United Nations.

“He said ‘What about in the speech I call (Kim Jong Un) little rocket man?’ And I said Mr. President, remember when I said this is like church?”

Both Haley and Gardner have been critical of the president at times, but she says Trump respects those who respectfully disagree. Haley is among the only Trump appointees to leave on good terms and one of a handful of female stars in the Republican party. Most of those who attended the event were women, and women outvote men in Colorado. But, Trump’s sometimes offensive Twitter remarks have turned off many female voters.

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“I’m not focused on Twitter feed or any other handle, it’s always what’s good for Colorado,” Gardner said. “Yes, I’m going to disagree with the president. Yes there are things we’re going to fight together to accomplish, like moving the Bureau of Land Management to Colorado. But it’s about Colorado first and always.”

Haley says Gardner’s allegiance to Trump isn’t what voters should be concerned about.

“Ask yourself, do you appreciate the tax cuts? Do you appreciate the roll back of regulations? Do you appreciate the fight against universal health care? Do you appreciate the fight against the Green New Deal? At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if you’re pro-Trump or never-Trump. It matters how you vote on these bills and I think if you look at Cory’s record, it’s a solid record of watching out for the people of Colorado. Call that whatever you want. At the end of the day, I call it the senator we need in Washington.”

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As for her own political future, Haley is on a short list of 2024 presidential contenders, but wouldn’t say if she’s considering a run.

“A year is a long time in politics. So what I’ll tell you is right now I’m focused on this year.”

She says the country will be focused on Colorado. Gardner faces one of the toughest re-election bids in the country and she hinted that she will be back to campaign for him again.

The Colorado Democratic Party released a statement accusing Gardner of hiding from voters because the event was invitation only. Gardner’s campaign noted he’s held three town halls open to the public in the last couple of weeks.

Shaun Boyd

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