We know what you’re going to say: You’ve heard it all before.
Politicos from both sides of the aisle have been predicting doom for incumbent Republican Rep. Mike Coffman since re-districting changed the makeup of CD-6 after the 2010 Census, yet Coffman has endured. Here at Colorado Pols, we’ve certainly been guilty of erroneously anticipating Coffman’s demise on more than one occasion. Indeed, we’ve been pessimistic about the odds of Democrat Jason Crow defeating Coffman in 2018 because we’ve learned that Coffman has an inexplicable way of maintaining support among Aurora-area voters.
But as much as recent history tells us to pump our brakes on Democratic hopes in CD-6, the numbers emerging from a national climate hostile to Republicans are becoming too striking to ignore. It doesn’t just look increasingly likely that Coffman might lose in 2018…it’s beginning to look as though it might be virtually impossible for Coffman to win re-election this time around.
According to Harry Enten of 538.com, Democrats should now be considered the favorites to win control of the House of Representatives in 2018 in a rising wave that even Coffman may not be able to overcome:
…the Democratic advantage in the FiveThirtyEight generic ballot aggregate is up to about 12 points, 49.6 percent to 37.4 percent. That average, like the CNN poll, also shows Republicans in worse shape right now than any other majority party at this point in the midterm cycle1 since at least the 1938 election…
…Their current advantage is larger than the lead Republicans had at this point in the 1994 cycle, the lead Democrats held at this point in the 2006 cycle or the lead Republicans had at this point in the 2010 cycle. Those were all years when the minority party won control of the House. And a 12 percentage point Democratic advantage in the national House vote come next November would likely be more than enough for the House to flip again. I’ve previously calculated that the Democrats need to win the national House vote by 5.5 to 8 points to win the House.
As Enten explains, 2018 looks to be a rough year for the 58 incumbents who aren’t sitting in seats with “a partisan lean of more than 12 points in favor of Republicans.” In 2012, Coffman narrowly avoided an upset loss to Democrat Joe Miklosi, winning re-election by a slim two-point margin (47.8% to 45.8%). Democrats thought they had the better candidate in 2014 with former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, but Coffman upped his margin of victory to nearly 9 points (51.9% to 43%). Democrat Morgan Carroll performed slightly better than Romanoff two years later, but Coffman still breezed to victory by more than 8 points (50.9% to 42.6%) — despite the fact that Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton outperformed Republican Donald Trump by 9 points in CD-6.
“Among GOP leaders, however, there is widespread concern heading into 2018. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said privately that both chambers could be lost in November.”
– Politico (12/21/17)
Congressional Republicans were already historically unpopular even before they unified in support of a tax plan that was the most overwhelmingly-despised piece of legislation in decades. Coffman has never faced a political climate like the one that is brewing in 2018; instead of adjusting his course, Coffman is leaning directly into the headwind.
When Coffman voted YES on the tax bill, he handed Democrats perhaps the most cogent opposition message the party has ever had in CD-6. In one vote, Coffman flushed away the pretend-moderate image he had so carefully crafted for years so that he could lash himself firmly to a sinking Republican ship. Coffman used to say that he didn’t support a partial repeal of Obamacare in any tax reform plan, but then he went and voted for the GOP tax debacle anyway. Now Coffman is even talking openly about backing significant cuts to Medicare and Social Security.
The ridiculous GOP tax plan is an unmistakable albatross around Republicans’ necks. Take a look at what former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum wrote about the political ramifications in a column for The Atlantic:
The Republican tax bill lands like a hammer on upper-income professionals in blue states. Highly compensated attorneys, doctors, accountants, and financial-service professionals will lose tens of thousands of dollars in deductions for their heavy state and local taxes and costly coastal mortgages, without getting much in return…
…States like California and New York desperately need a competitive Republican Party—especially at the state level—to challenge the lazy and often corrupt practices of local Democratic machines. This new tax law will have the opposite effect, wrecking whatever little remains of GOP strength in the states that motor American innovation and growth. It threatens to push New Jersey, Colorado, and Virginia into single-party blue rule as well, by painfully demonstrating that the party of Trump is not only obnoxious to their values but implacably hostile to their welfare. [Pols emphasis]
While Republicans slap each other on the back over the tax bill, new political warnings are brewing. Both Politico and the Washington Post reported on Thursday that numerous Republican strategists are warning President Trump that a mid-term bloodbath is coming. As Jonathan Martin writes for the New York Times:
Officials in both parties believe Democratic gains in the House, where Republicans enjoy a 24-seat majority, could reach as high as 40 seats if the political environment does not improve for the Republicans.
And, as of now, it only appears to be worsening.
So, yes, you’ve heard the stories about Coffman’s vulnerabilities before, but never quite like this.
A lot can change before the 2018 election, but if this current trajectory continues, it may not even be possible for Coffman to win re-election next November.