After a difficult couple of months that produced a government shutdown and cratered GOP approval ratings with voters, things appear to be looking up for Republicans.
A disastrous rollout of the Affordable Care Act, coupled with health insurance cancellations and a runaway National Security Agency have Democrats on the hot seat and looking for a way to escape a flailing White House. However, the GOP is still on a short leash -- they must regain voters' trust and prove they have a plan to govern or risk another downturn in their political fortunes.
Despite these challenges, the good news for Republicans nationwide is that their time in the political wilderness has produced a new generation of talent -- espousing the same basic principles of smaller government, fiscal responsibility and social conservatism yet bringing a fresh perspective and revamped message to the Grand Old Party.
Some new faces like Sen. Marco Rubio, Gov. Susanna Martinez and Rep. Paul Ryan have already stepped into the limelight; others are waiting in the wings. While there are many innovative and exciting lawmakers on the cusp, Rep. Cory Gardner of Colorado, Oklahoma Speaker of the House T.W. Shannon and Virginia state Sen. Bryce Reeves each have the combination of talent, charisma and fresh perspective that distinguish them as rising stars.
Rep. Cory Gardner – Colorado 4th Congressional District
Since his arrival in Congress in 2010 as part of the new Republican majority, Cory Gardner has quickly become a "go-to" member for Republican leadership for messaging on everything from their initial legislative priorities in the "Contract with America" to more recent controversies over the IRS targeting conservative groups and the Affordable Care Act.
Gardner's arrival on the scene came at a welcome time for Colorado Republicans, who endured losses in recent statewide campaigns and watched the state support President Obama in 2008 and 2012, despite spending millions to stem the tide.
In a recent conversation, Gardner pointed out that Colorado has "ebbs and flows" when it comes to its politics. Asked about how to get the party back on track, the congressman emphasized the importance of an effective majority. "People need to be assured that the GOP can govern. It's not about changing our principles but about making sure the family at the dinner table understands what we're trying to do for them".
In addition to catching the eye of House Republican leadership, Gardner has also won the support of leaders in his state. According to Bob Beauprez, a former Republican congressman and Colorado insider, "Cory is a very gifted communicator grounded in the best of American values. He knows who he is, what he believes and why, and has a comfortable way about him that immediately made him a star in the House."
Gardner points to energy issues as his policy area of choice, pointing out that Colorado is right in the middle of the new energy boom. He's already distinguished himself on the influential House Energy and Commerce Committee, where he's been able to work effectively with Democrats on issues such as energy efficiency, while speaking out on more partisan topics such as the need for streamlining the process for energy exploration and calling on the president to approve the Keystone Pipeline.