The recent story of national conservative “astroturf” organizing behemoth Americans For Prosperity’s single-minded fixation with Colorado’s Sixth Congressional District, where the organization’s president Tim Phillips was personally knocking on doors last week with literature attacking incumbent Rep. Mike Coffman’s Democratic opponent Morgan Carroll, has made political outsiders more aware of something we’ve known for months: this is one of the most important congressional races in the entire nation, and the threat Coffman faces is a bellwether for the GOP’s ability to function in a post-Donald Trump political landscape.
This year in Colorado, Americans for Prosperity is targeting Democrat Morgan Carroll, who is challenging Republican incumbent Mike Coffman in the 6th Congressional District. The organization is not making a play in the presidential race to help Donald Trump, nor Colorado’s U.S. Senate race to boost Republican Darryl Glenn, who AFP strategists don’t consider competitive.
The Carroll-Coffman contest is the only U.S. House race in the nation this year to draw attention from the organization backed by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch…
AFP may be singularly focused on Coffman’s race in Colorado due to the lack of any decent prospects higher up the ticket, but they’re not the only big guns on the right side of the aisle jumping into the fight to save him. In the Washington Post this weekend, iconic conservative columnist George Will himself devoted an entire column to talking up Coffman’s “reinvention” into…well, something most conservatives oppose:
After he was reelected with 66 percent of the vote in 2010, his district was gerrymandered to make it more Democratic — 20 percent Hispanic, with a generous salting of other minorities. He won in 2012 with just 48 percent of the vote. In 2014, national Democrats recruited a formidable opponent, a Yale University graduate who had taught, in Spanish, in Central American schools. So, Coffman learned Spanish well enough to do an entire debate in the language, and today banters in Spanish with the children at Roca Fuerte Academy…
Will goes on to describe how Coffman, who once called the DREAM Act a “nightmare” and told bilingual voters to “pull out a dictionary,” has switched positions on immigration and sponsored various stillborn efforts to pass at least part of the DREAM Act in recent years.
As we’ve discussed in this space many times, the question of Coffman’s “reinvention” since 2011 comes down to whether you find it believable, or merely shrewd politics. After all, Coffman’s Republicans majority leadership in the House has consistently ensured that none of these newer reforms Coffman has proposed go anywhere–and Coffman’s would-be change of heart of immigration has never motivated him to go after John Boehner or now Paul Ryan for killing them.
Setting that question aside though, we think the best explanation for so much attention being focused on Coffman’s race is that Republicans nationally are genuinely afraid of the consequences of losing, viewing CD-6 and Coffman’s political reinvention as a model for their whole party’s increasingly likely retreat from the wreckage Trump leaves behind after his own defeat in November. You don’t see this kind of fixation on a race they’re comfortable about. But if New Coffman® can triangulate his way through this election with the damage Trump is doing to the Republican brand, he blazes a trail for how other Republicans can do the same thing–now and in the difficult years that lie ahead.
That or Coffman goes down, and Republicans learn that not even abandoning their principles can save them.