With eleven days remaining until Election Day 2016, Republicans are privately expressing great dismay that one of their most-cherished incumbents in Colorado, Rep. Mike Coffman, has failed to do what he needs to do to hold off the latest challenge from state Sen. Morgan Carroll. Earlier this week, Carroll posted a huge fundraising total (with some help from Sen. Bernie Sanders), easily topping Coffman’s haul for the October 1-19 reporting period.
And it’s not just in fundraising: Ernest Luning notes again today that Democratic ballot returns are pulling ahead of Republicans in CD-6, in marked contrast to previous elections:
— Ernest Lee Luning (@eluning) October 28, 2016
These ballot return numbers are highly significant given Coffman’s much-balleyhooed history of outperforming Republicans at the top of the ticket in CD-6 elections. In 2012 and especially in 2014, Coffman strongly outperformed Mitt Romney and Cory Gardner in this district.
Not so in 2016, and that is very, very ominous.
So what’s happening in CD-6 that’s different from previous elections? For starters, there’s Donald Trump–as Elise Foley at the Huffington Post reported this week:
For all of his disavowals of the GOP nominee, Coffman has given Democrats plenty of ammunition to tie him to Trump. Last week, in a debate with Carroll hosted by 9News, Coffman fielded a question about his 2012 comments on Obama’s birthplace ― relevant because of Trump’s long history of birtherism.
Coffman said at a private fundraiser that year that he didn’t “know whether Barack Obama was born in the United States of America … in his heart, he’s not an American.” Coffman apologized for the comments, but the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has packaged the tape into a commercial suggesting Coffman is no different than Trump.
Coffman acknowledged at the debate that he made the statement “at one time.”
“Assumed it wasn’t public,” Coffman said. “I was wrong for making the statement, I said so. But to somehow infer in any way that it had an influence on Donald Trump is absolutely ridiculous.”
Last week, Coffman withered under questions about his past statements regarding Barack Obama’s citizenship in an interview with 9NEWS’ Kyle Clark–and then failed again to satisfactorily answer the question in a much-watched 9NEWS debate a couple of days later. Arguably an even bigger failure for Coffman came in this debate when he responded “I don’t know” to a question about whether Trump’s comments about grabbing women by the genitals make Trump a “sexual predator”–a question Carroll had no trouble answering. Coffman’s non-answer is now playing in a TV spot. And in a CBS4 debate on October 12th, Carroll tore into Coffman’s long record of ethics troubles, in contrast to the fiction cited in ads against Carroll:
“I have never had a single ethics complaint filed against me in my career,” Carroll said. “One of us on this stage has had ethics violations, one after the other, not me but you.” [Pols emphasis]
Unlike Team Coffman’s gaffes earlier in the election season, like when a campaign spokesperson assured reporters that Coffman would support the GOP nominee, this is happening when voters are paying attention. The fact is that Coffman’s ability to deflect from his own and his party’s record has always been skin-deep; dependent on an overworked media either not having the resources to question him, or thrown off by his campaign’s intensive “working the refs” to blunt negative coverage.
Any way you look at this campaign today, Coffman has failed to replicate his past successes in 2016. He’s not outraising his opponent. The press is not giving him a pass on questions he doesn’t want to answer. And for the first time since this district was reshaped into a competitive battleground in 2011, Coffman is behind in early vote returns.
It’s time to say it: the conventional wisdom that has made Mike Coffman appear invincible all these years is coming apart.