State Assemblies End; The Big Line Updates

With both the Democratic and Republican state assemblies/conventions now behind us, we’ve made a multitude of updates to The Big Line. If you’re looking for information on who made the ballot and who didn’t, you’ll find those updates in The Big Line. If you’re looking for a good restaurant in Colorado, you will not find that information in The Big Line. If you’re looking for an analysis of the 2018 races for Governor, Attorney General, State Treasurer, Secretary of State, and Congress…it’s in The Big Line.

You may now commence with your complaints…

(P.S.: The Big Line)

Jason Crow Wins Top Line in CD6, Tillemann Squeaks By

Tonight, delegates in Congressional District 6 voted for one the remaining candidates seeking to go up against Congressman Mike Coffman.

405 votes were recorded.

261 for Jason Crow (64.4%)
144 for Levi Tillemann (35.5%)

Both candidates have, therefore, achieved ballot access for the June Primary and Tillemann, who also submitted petitions for ballot access, will no longer have to await the results from the Secretary of State.

Coffman was able to defeat his primary opponent, Roger Edwards, on April 7th when he received 75% of the vote at the Republican CD6 Assembly, preventing Edwards from accessing the ballot.

Colorado’s primaries will be held by mail-in ballot this June. Ballots will begin going out on June 4th and the final day of voting is June 26th.

Jason Crow Has All the Momentum in CD-6

Democrat Jason Crow and family

We’re less than seven months away from the November election, and if the rest of this year unfolds like the first 100 days have gone for Jason Crow, 2018 is going to be a banner year for the Aurora Democrat.

Crow is the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination to take on incumbent Republican Rep. Mike Coffman in CD-6, and today his campaign announced a very strong fundraising quarter for the first three months of 2018. From a press release:

Today, Jason Crow, a decorated former Army Ranger, father, veterans’ advocate and candidate for Colorado’s 6th Congressional District announced raising $461,832 for the first quarter of 2018, bringing his total raised to $1,259,532 since launching his campaign one year ago this week. Crow, who has pledged to not take a dollar from corporate PACs, brought in 91% of his Q1 money from individuals with an average donation of $121. He has gained more than 4,800 individual donors for the cycle and he currently has $883,746 cash on hand.

We don’t know what Coffman’s Q1 fundraising numbers look like (figures won’t be available via the FEC until next week), but Crow’s $461,832 far exceeds the $276,712 raised by the Democrat in Q4 2017; Crow outraised Coffman by $35k in the last three months of 2017 as Coffman finished the year with his worst fundraising performance since 2011 (Coffman’s weak fundraising also followed a general downward trend for incumbent Republican Congressmen throughout the country).

Polling numbers released in February showed Crow with a 44-39 lead over Coffman — the first public poll showing Coffman trailing anyone since he was first elected in CD-6 in 2008. Coffman has been able to weather difficult opponents and political environments in the past, but 2018 is shaping up to be a monster of a blue wave. As Reuters reported on Monday:

Older, white, educated voters helped Donald Trump win the White House in 2016. Now, they are trending toward Democrats in such numbers that their ballots could tip the scales in tight congressional races from New Jersey to California, a new Reuters/Ipsos poll and a data analysis of competitive districts shows.

Nationwide, whites over the age of 60 with college degrees now favor Democrats over Republicans for Congress by a 2-point margin, according to Reuters/Ipsos opinion polling during the first three months of the year. During the same period in 2016, that same group favored Republicans for Congress by 10 percentage points…

“The real core for the Republicans is white, older white, and if they’re losing ground there, they’re going to have a tsunami,” [Pols emphasis] said Larry Sabato, a University of Virginia political scientist who closely tracks political races. “If that continues to November, they’re toast.”

Can Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) ride out a blue wave in 2018?

While the margins have varied over the last few months, Democrats continue to hold a strong lead over Republicans in the “generic congressional ballot” that measures how voters generally feel about candidates from the two major parties. The Washington Post reported on Monday that Republicans are growing so concerned about losing their majority in the House that they may shift most of their resources toward trying to preserve their slim majority in the Senate.

Coffman’s biggest political victory in recent months occurred last weekend, when he narrowly avoided a Primary challenge from little-known Republican Roger Edwards. Coffman had to scrap and claw to keep Edwards below the 30% threshold required for ballot access, and there is reason for Coffman to worry about being able to hold onto his Republican base in November. Meanwhile, Crow is consolidating support among Democrats; Levi Tillemann, the only other Democrat still in the race, is fading fast and seems unlikely to pose much of a threat to Crow’s nomination.

Coffman has consistently demonstrated a remarkable ability to overcome difficult opponents and tough political environments over the years, and we’ve learned from experience not to count him out.

But sooner or later, the odds catch up to everyone — even Mike Coffman.

Worried About Primary Challenge, Coffman Scraps to Confirm Delegates

(Remember that in 2016, an unknown Republican named Kyle Bradell nearly got his name onto the GOP Primary ballot — Promoted by Colorado Pols)

UPDATE: In the interview below, Coffman Spokesman Tyler Sandberg said that former GOP Chair Steve House “graciously” paid fees for 20 Coffman delegates for the district assembly. In fact, House told KNUS’ Julie Hayden and Chuck Bonniwell that he donated the money to the Adams County Republican Party. He was then asked by Sandberg if his money could be used for delegate fees. House said yes initially but, in accordance with GOP rules, House then deferred the decision on how his money should be spent Adams County GOP Chair Anil Mathai, House told KNUS, who appears to have blocked the money from going to Coffman delegate fees. Listen to House here.

——–

“There was a battle last night between the liberty forces, represented by [Congressman Mike Coffman’s primary challenger] Roger Edwards, and the establishment, represented by Mike Coffman, at an executive committee meeting [of the Adams County Republican Party],” said KNUS radio host Chuck Boniwell on air Wed. afternoon.

And the battle continued on Bonniwell’s radio show, with accusations of vote-buying, assault, bullying, thuggery, and more.

At issue is a group of Coffman delegates to the district assembly who apparently had their delegate fees paid for by former state GOP Chair Steve House. Whether this was a violation of the rules is not clear at press time.

But the intensity of the argument,  as you can hear if you listen below, shows that the Coffman camp is seriously worried about Edwards winning over 30 percent of delegates at the upcoming district assembly–which would put Edwards on the primary ballot against Coffman.

In other words, if the mood was good in the Coffman campaign, Sandberg wouldn’t be scraping for stray delegates in Adams County, much less spending his afternoon sparring with conservative radio hosts who apparently despise him and Coffman.

You recall, an informal vote of Adams Country caucus goers showed Edwards trouncing Coffman by a 67-33 percent margin.

But, in any case, the altercation on the radio was quite awful.

“My father would whup my ass if I stood by while a woman was bullied by a man who has a foot on her and about a hundred pounds,” said Sandberg on air, apparently referring to Adams County GOP Chair Anil Mathai. “I told Anil, ‘You are not going to bully Maria Ruiz. I am not going to stand for that.'”

“Anil likes to bully people,” said Sandberg.

Edwards told Bonniwell that it was the Coffman people who went nuts, characterizing the Coffman campaign’s behavior at the Adams County meeting as “rude and offensive.”

Listen to key segments here. Click here for the entire show.

The Big Budget Deal, Guns, and Gardner

Trump sign bill, but Trump still mad!

After briefly threatening a veto — and randomly asking Congress to give him line item veto powers (and eliminating the filibuster) — President Trump today signed a massive $1.3 trillion spending deal that includes changes to background checks for gun purchases that Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) opposed to the very end. If that sentence seems complicated…well, it is. There’s no easy way to unpack the giant omnibus spending bill rammed through by Congress early this morning.

Let’s start things off with the Washington Post reporting from the White House:

Just hours after threatening a veto, President Trump said Friday afternoon that he had signed a “ridiculous” $1.3 trillion spending bill passed by Congress early Friday and averted a government shutdown…

…But speaking to reporters at the White House about four hours later, Trump said he had decided to sign the bill despite his reservations, arguing that it provides much-needed funding for the military, including a pay increase for troops and new equipment.

In his remarks to the media today, Trump was in full angry old man mode. From the New York Times:

In a rambling and disjointed 20-minute statement from the Diplomatic Reception Room, Mr. Trump denigrated the bill, which was rushed through the House and the Senate by members of his own Republican Party, as “crazy” and vowed to never “sign another bill like this again.”

“Nobody read it,” Mr. Trump said of the sweeping funding measure drawn up by Republican leaders in the House and the Senate. Echoing criticism from those who voted against the measure, Mr. Trump added, “It’s only hours old.”

Trump specifically addressed his anger about the 2,322-page spending bill that lawmakers could not have possibly even begun to have read before voting on the measure. The House version of the bill made it to the floor on Thursday after just 16 hours of debate; all four Colorado Republican members of Congress voted to end discussion, moving things along with a narrow 211-207 result. Colorado Reps. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) and Ken Buck (R-Greeley) were ultimately able to vote “YES” and “NO” on the proposal (Coffman and Buck voted YES on the procedural move before pressing the “NO” button on the final vote).

Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma).

Over in the Senate, the spending bill passed with 62 votes; Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver) voted “YES” and Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) was a “NO.” Gardner’s vote is particularly interesting because the bill included the “Fix NICS” background check provision that Gardner had been blocking for weeks. The next time Gardner pretends to be concerned about gun violence, remember that he prevented the popular background fix measure from being debated in the Senate and ultimately voted against its final approval.

What else do we know about the giant omnibus spending bill? As CNN’s Gregory Krieg explains, it’s important to consider everything that was NOT bundled into the legislation, such as: 1) DACA and immigration reform, 2) Billions of dollars for Trump’s border wall, and 3) Serious attempts at preventing gun violence, including no new limits on gun purchases.

How did this all happen so quickly? As Sarah Binder writes for the Washington Post, this was Republican strategerie at work:

One of the reasons GOP leaders were keen to rush the bill to a vote is that they didn’t want their partisan base to notice that it both funds innumerable Democratic priorities and blocks the Trump administration from doing such things as expanding detention of immigrants, defunding sanctuary cities, and ending federal funding for the arts, to name a few. [Pols emphasis] The Trump White House and many conservatives wanted deep cuts to domestic programs. Party leaders ignored that. The more quickly the two chambers vote, the less time potential opponents have to unearth details that could outrage the GOP base, who might pressure their representatives to vote against the deal.

To summarize, Congressional Republicans rammed through a humongous spending bill that they didn’t read and didn’t really like that does very little to address their political vulnerabilities on gun violence and immigration reform…and will also likely anger their base of supporters.

House Passes Omnibus Bill Nobody Had Time to Read

UPDATE #2: All four Republicans in Colorado’s Congressional delegation sided with leadership on a narrow 211-207 vote to move the discussion forward. As CNN explains:

The internal GOP backlash to the amount of spending and the process of rushing the measure through just 16 hours after it was released was on full display on the House floor on Thursday. Twenty-five House Republicans broke with their leadership and opposed the usually party line procedural vote bringing up the legislation. But the measure narrowly passed 211-207.

After the vote to move the omnibus debate forward, the House approved the bill with a 256-167 margin…with Republican Reps. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) and Ken Buck (R-Greeley) conveniently voting “NO.” In other words, Coffman and Buck voted “YES” before they voted “NO.”

—–

UPDATE: House Republicans rammed through the omnibus bill without even waiting for every member to vote. Here’s more from Politico.

—–

Via @RepJayapal

Chris Cillizza of CNN takes note of the absolutely massive new omnibus spending bill that Congress is trying to pass before tomorrow’s deadline for funding the federal government:

On Wednesday night, congressional leaders unveiled a spending bill that will fund the entire federal government through September — at a whopping estimated cost of $1.3 trillion. The bill is 2,322 pages long. It has be to be passed through both chambers of Congress by midnight Friday or else the government shuts down. Again.

Some quick back-of-the-envelope math shows that if every lawmaker stayed up for 48 straight hours — the time, roughly, between when the so-called “omnibus” bill was unveiled and when it needs to be passed — they would need to read an average of 48 pages per hour, every hour, to read the entire thing. Which seems, um, unlikely.

Congressman Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) is a big fan of pretending to read bills before he votes on them, but it’s going to be tough for him to continue that lark with a new omnibus bill that might be taller than the Congressman himself.

As a freshman in Congress in 2009, Coffman had a speaking role in Republican efforts to promote “transparency” and a “read the bill” initiative. Just last March, Coffman Tweeted a photo of himself “reading” Obamacare repeal legislation at his desk in Washington D.C. — at about the same time he was promoting a radio appearance in Colorado to discuss his support of said legislation.

Perhaps we should give Coffman the benefit of the doubt and assume that he has a superhero-esque ability to read and digest complex information in a matter of minutes. Or, perhaps, there is a simpler explanation here.

Con Man Chaps Interviews CD6 candidate Roger Edwards

Roger Edwards, Colorado Polster and candidate for Congressional District 6, was recently interviewed on Gordon “Dr. Chaps” Klingenschmitt’s Pray in Jesus Name online “news” program.

Screenshot, Pray in Jesus Name program 12/21/17

Edwards should be more careful about the people he associates with; Chaps is a known nutcase, homophobe, and a con man who has made millions by exploiting the hopes and fears of his gullible subscribers.

Klingenschmitt’s nonprofit, “Persuade the World Ministries” declared income of $1,362,548 in 2016, while making no charitable grants whatsoever. (2016 990 form, from Propublica Nonprofit Explorer) In 2016, Klingenschmitt was still employed as the Representative for HD15, and attempted to run for Senate District 16.  And he wasn’t too fussy about keeping his political and religious finances separate.

Klingenschmitt: You, Too, Can Discern Demons

How did Klingenschmitt make 1.3 million dollars?  By selling such gems as his $99 “Discern the Spirits” program.

Screenshot – Youtube video of PJIN program

That’s right, for only $99, Chaps will teach you how to see demons and angels. This would be just another laughable claim by a religious fanatic –  if not for the political applications of Chaps “discernment”. He famously tried to exorcise a demon from President Obama, and claimed that gay and transgender people were inhabited by demons.

Also possessed by demons, according to Chaps: Zales ad execs, and anyone who criticizes him.

On the same 40 minute PJIN progam, at 19:11, Chaps promotes his petition to protect the altars of military chapels from the “desecration” of being used for “homosexual wedding ceremonies”. Because, of course, this is a legit national security concern.

Chaps Facebook page is a compendium of conspiracy theories (How Planned Parenthood Killed Toys R Us!!), Trumpism, and fundraising appeals for his various campaigns against gays and abortion, Mexican and Muslim immigrants, etc.  This is how he has become a millionaire. People donate to his “ministry”. A lot.

Edwards: Gays OK to keep their jobs

Chaps’ interview with candidate Roger Edwards starts with the standard biographical questions. Then the two proceed to check the right boxes: Anti-abortion / Pro Personhood? Check. Pro Concealed Carry? Check. Trump voter? Check.

When Chaps probes to find out what policies Edwards is for, the best Edwards can say is that he is “Not Mike Coffman”. There are no specific policies on Edwards’ campaign website, either. Sample: We must recognize that evil exists in the world. 

To Edwards’ credit, at 25:11,  Edwards  declines to denounce the ENDA (Employment Non Discrimination Act), which protects gay people from employment discrimination. Edwards refuses Chaps’ request to get on the homophobic bandwagon against ENDA, and says that gay people should be able to keep their jobs. Edwards says:

I believe in religious freedom, but I also believe that, if you’re a gay person,. . .that you should have equal opportunity to have a job and work a career that you want to work in.

I’m sorry that we live in a world in which we should be grateful that an aspiring politician declines to discriminate against a tenth of the population. Edwards does say that he thinks that Jack Phillips, the baker who wouldn’t make the gay cake, probably did the right thing for “artistic freedom”. So he checked that box for Chaps.

Roger Edwards is trying to establish himself as a legitimate, electable candidate in CD6, a diverse district. The Adams County Republicans endorsed his candidacy over Coffman’s. It does not serve Edwards well to associate with opportunistic right wing hucksters like Dr. Chaps.

In the unlikely event that Edwards defeats Coffman in the primary, Dr. Chaps’ blessing of Edwards will serve the likely CD6 Democratic candidate, Jason Crow, very well, indeed.

Mike Coffman’s Quarterly Fundraising is Lowest Since 2011

Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) and Democrat Jason Crow

Congressman Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) will report his weakest fundraising quarter in six years when federal campaign finance numbers for Q4 (2017) become public next week. As Ernest Luning writes for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman:

Democrat Jason Crow outraised Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman in the most recent fundraising quarter, but the five-term incumbent outspent his challenger in Colorado’s battleground 6th Congressional District and had more cash on hand at the end of the year, according to reports the campaigns plan to file with the Federal Election Commission.

In the quarter ending Dec. 31, Crow raised $276,712 to Coffman’s roughly $241,000, their campaigns told Colorado Politics.

Crow, one of four Democrats running to unseat Coffman, will report spending approximately $80,000 during the three-month period, while Coffman will report spending just under $125,000 — leaving $590,346 in Crow’s campaign account and about $840,000 in Coffman’s.

For the year, Coffman has raised $1.22 million, compared with just under $800,000 pulled in by Crow, who declared his candidacy in April

Coffman’s $241,000 in Q4 (2017) represents — by far — his worst quarterly fundraising number since 2011, and the incumbent Republican is on a slower fundraising pace at this point in the campaign than he was at a similar stage in 2016. Both Coffman and his top Democratic challenger, Jason Crow, are in the same financial ballpark thus far, though Coffman has considerably less cash-on-hand compared to the same point two years ago:

So, what does this all mean for 2018? Quite frankly, we’re not sure what to make of these particular tea leaves. This isn’t the first time that Coffman has been outraised by a Democratic opponent, and the Aurora Republican has never had much trouble turning on the cash spigot when he needs it most. Coffman’s fairly easy re-election victories in both 2014 and 2016 — and his 30 years as an elected official in Colorado — have shown that you can never truly count him out, no matter what the political climate looks like.

On the other hand…even Mike Coffman can’t beat the odds forever. Perhaps the most interesting lesson in these Q4 fundraising numbers is that Democratic donors are not losing their enthusiasm for winning in CD-6 after disappointing finishes in each of the last two cycles.

As the 2018 election kicks into high gear, Crow is right where he needs to be — and that’s about all Democratic supporters could hope to see.

Coffman on Campaigning With Trump: Maybe In Six Months!

Rep. Mike Coffman (R).

A story from Buzzfeed News late yesterday is raising eyebrows in Colorado after some fascinating quotes from Rep. Mike Coffman on the matter of campaigning with President Donald Trump this year–would it help Coffman? Would it hurt him?

“Each district is different, and probably in mine it probably wouldn’t be helpful,” Colorado Republican Rep. Mike Coffman, who represents a swing district that is a perennial Democratic target, told BuzzFeed News.

That position, though, is rarely said openly, with some Republicans careful to avoid publicly belittling a president who closely tracks slights. Coffman, just moments after making those comments, flagged BuzzFeed News down again to clarify. “Right now I don’t think it would be helpful. I don’t know what the future’s gonna be, I mean, who knows what it’s gonna be, six months from now whether it would be helpful or not,” [Pols emphasis] he said. “Certainly today it would not be. I mean, right now it would not be helpful.”

Given that Mike Coffman ran in 2016 arguably the most anti-Trump Republican campaign of anyone who wasn’t running against Trump, it’s quite a shock to see him equivocate about whether Trump would be a help on the campaign trail–enough that he left the door open to doing so if Trump’s political fortunes were to improve. In a district that Hillary Clinton carried by nine points in 2016, Coffman’s waffling on this essential question doesn’t help him politically at all.

In fact, Coffman’s need to “flag down” this reporter to clarify that he might be okay with campaigning with Trump “six months from now” invites the charge that his values shift with the prevailing winds.

Which, our readers know, his critics on both sides have said since 2011.

Slamming the media, Coffman says stock market would have crashed if not for GOP tax cuts

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Rep. Mike Coffman (R).

In an appearance on KNUS 710-AM’s Jimmy Sengenberger Show Saturday, U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman said recent U.S. economic growth came “in anticipation of tax cuts,” and without passage of the Republican tax bill, “the market would have tanked” and the U.S economy “wouldn’t be at 3.2 percent growth.”

Coffman delivered these comments as he slammed portrayals of the tax bill in the “mainstream media,” including in a Denver Post editorial and apparently in the Aurora Sentinel.

Coffman at 11 min 30 sec here: “I think the Denver Post did an editorial where they said, ‘Why do corporations need this tax cut because we are at 3.2 percent growth?’ Well, we wouldn’t be at 3.2 percent growth. Again, the market would have tanked. The growth has been in anticipation of tax cuts. I am looking forward to wage growth. I am looking forward to job growth.”

U.S. economic growth and stock market increases started prior to Trump’s election victory, with a stock market bump last year. The most common explanation isn’t the tax cut but that the U. S. economy is growing along with the global economy

In mentioning The Post, Coffman, who did not return an email for comment, appears to be referencing a Dec. 18 editorial, headlined, “Colorado lawmakers should oppose the dismal Trump tax plan,” which argued, in part, that “if corporations wished to invest in employee wages and job creation, they would be doing so now.”

Denver Post: Unable even to stay within the generous and arbitrary cap of adding $1.5 trillion to the deficit over the next 10 years, Republicans turned to accounting lies to pay for an overly aggressive 21 percent corporate tax rate. To save money on paper, the bill would sunset key tax credits for the middle class and lower-income Americans, meaning that those income categories would be hit hard with tax increases in coming years, or, should their cuts be extended down the road, that the bill spends far more than it purports to.

The American economy would be better served with tax cuts focused on the middle class. Corporate America sits flush on record amounts of cash. If corporations wished to invest in employee wages and job creation, they would be doing so now. Gross Domestic Product grew by 3.3 percent in the third quarter, unemployment rests at its lowest point in a decade and earnings reports continue to fuel a bull market.

The last-minute decision to reduce the tax rate for the highest earners gives the impression that the plan is mostly a sham meant to give a Christmas gift to GOP donors.

Coffman isn’t just upset with The Denver Post editorial board’s view on the tax bill but with the entire “mainstream media’s depiction of it,” including his “local newspaper,” which is presumably the Aurora Sentinel.

Coffman at 3 min 30 sec: “I’m very disappointed with the mainstream media’s depiction of it. I’m just kind of surprised at that. I think it was absolutely essential that it passed. We can quibble with some of the details, but all in all it’s going to be good for the economy, good for the country.”

When my local newspaper said we were cutting taxes on the wealthy to increase taxes on the middle class. You know, I’m going to meet with that particular writer and say, ‘Show me a middle class family in this in this congressional district that is going to have their taxes increase…This is great.”

Most independent analyses have concluded that the tax bill will add over a trillion dollars to the U.S. deficit over the next decade.

Asked about this on air by Sengenberger, Coffman said that estimates by the Congressional Budget Office and others are based on recent years of sluggish growth. An economy stimulated by the tax cuts will produce “great growth” and revenue that will fend off deficits, Coffman said.

Top Ten Stories of 2017 #4: Can Mike Coffman Survive Trump?

Rep. Mike Coffman (R).

Having climbed the ladder of elected office from the state legislature in the early 1990s, through two constitutional state offices as Treasurer and Secretary of State, and finally as a representative in Congress for going on ten years, Rep. Mike Coffman’s story is one of political survival that few others in politics anywhere in America can match. And it’s not just longevity in elected office: in 2011, the decennial process of redistricting redrew Coffman’s district, transforming Coffman’s constituency from the overwhelmingly Republican south Denver suburbs and exurbs to an economically and racially diverse battleground district centered on the city of Aurora.

Mike Coffman nearly lost his seat in 2012 to an unknown and underfunded Democratic opponent, but recovered in 2014 and 2016 with surprisingly easy victories over much better opponents. In 2016, Coffman won overwhelmingly in a district that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton carried by an equally strong margin. Coffman did this largely by about-facing on numerous critical issues, at least in terms of his rhetoric–dramatically softening his former Tom Tancredo-style tone on immigration, and audaciously using Planned Parenthood’s logo in campaign ads despite his longstanding opposition to legal abortion.

Donald Trump’s campaign represented a new opportunity for Coffman to triangulate off an unpopular nationwide Republican brand, and Coffman dived into the role with gusto becoming one of the first Republican 2016 candidates to dis Trump in a campaign ad. The margin by which both Clinton and Coffman carried CD-6 is testament to the effectiveness of Coffman’s triangulation off Trump. By a decisive margin, ticket-splitting voters in CD-6 elected Hillary Clinton President and Mike Coffman “to keep an eye on her.”

But as we all know, that’s not what happened.

(more…)

Mike Coffman May Very Well Be Hosed in 2018

Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora)

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.

Cory Gardner Doesn’t Want to Talk About Tax Bill

I’m doing good, right?

Earlier this week Congressional Republicans rammed through a tax plan that ranks as the most unpopular piece of legislation to pass through Capitol Hill in literally decades. Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver) opposed the measure — as did all Senate Democrats — and has not been shy about voicing his concerns. Colorado’s other Senator, Republican Cory Gardner, voted YES on the tax plan but isn’t really all that interested in talking about it.

Senator Bennet spoke with Colorado Public Radio (CPR) on Thursday and did not mince words about his disgust with the legislation:

“…the way I look at this is that they’ve been kind enough to spread some crumbs around for middle America to make it appear like there’s a middle-class tax cut, when the reality is they’re borrowing money from the middle class to finance these massive tax cuts for the wealthiest people the country. I don’t think that’s satisfactory. In fact I would say this is the worst piece of legislation that I’ve seen in the nine years that I’ve been in this job.” [Pols emphasis]

There’s certainly no mistaking Bennet’s position here, but why is Sen. Gardner supporting a tax plan that offers little help to middle-class Colorado families? That’s a good question…without much of an answer. As radio host Jo Ann Allen explained after Bennet’s interview on CPR:

“We’ve asked Republican Senator Cory Gardner numerous times for an interview on the tax bill and other topics. So far, he has not set aside the time.” [Pols emphasis]

Gardner isn’t just ducking Colorado Public Radio — he’s been noticeably silent on the tax plan since it really started picking up steam in November. Gardner issued a generic statement of support after the vote this week, but otherwise he hasn’t been very eager to talk about his enthusiasm for legislation that the entire country dislikes.

It’s not a huge political mystery as to why Gardner supported the GOP tax plan. Gardner is the head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), and his anemic fundraising is setting off alarm bells all over Washington D.C.; he is absolutely desperate to win back the support of major Republican donors before his entire political career goes up in flames, and if that means supporting legislation that his constituents don’t like…well, whatever, right?

Still, is it really too much to ask for Gardner to actually defend his position on the only significant legislative accomplishment for Congressional Republicans in 12 months?

Don’t answer that.

Coffman Still Playing “Undecided” Game That Nobody’s Buying

A carefully-staged photo from Rep. Mike Coffman yesterday could have you believing he might possibly be something other than a “hard yes” on the final version of GOP tax cut legislation released by the conference committee between the U.S. House and Senate late last week:

Coffman is a big fan of these staged photos of himself reading at his desk–here’s one of him reading the failed Affordable Care Act repeal bill, which he ultimately opposed, and an earlier version of the tax cut bill he supported. Here’s Rep. Coffman signing form letter responses to “over 109,000 pieces of correspondence.” If you look closely at this latest photo, you can see Spanish vocabulary flash cards and what looks like an Ethiopian motif scarf just “casually” lying in place–both token nods to communities in Coffman’s district. It may make Democrats’ blood boil, but Coffman or a thoughtful staffer has got a real streak of showmanship that shouldn’t be underestimated.

The only problem with this carefully concocted scene is, Coffman sent this Tweet the day before:

Followed by this Tweet earlier in the day yesterday:

Both of which could reasonably be considered cheerleading, not “reviewing.” Coffman, like Sen. Cory Gardner and other swing-state Republicans in Congress who welcomed the GOP’s complete takeover in the 2016 elections but are now quite nervous about whether the party will survive the Trump era, has played very close to the vest on the major pieces of legislation debated in 2017. But this time, despite the fact that the so-called “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” is historically unpopular in public opinion polls, Coffman and Gardner have been much more openly supportive–to the point of making their usual “undecided” posture look silly (see above).

It’s also worth noting that Coffman will be abandoning one of the key defenses he offered for his vote for the House version of the tax bill if he votes in favor the conference committee report–from Coffman’s November 20th op-ed in the Aurora Sentinel:

This tax plan maintains the top income tax rate as it currently stands – 39.6% – for individuals making over $500,000 or couples making over $1,000,000.

We can only hope he notices while reading the final version that it does indeed cut the top income tax rate. Interestingly it does not cut the next-to-top 35% tax bracket, which if we’re not mistaken covers many more “job creators” in Coffman’s district than the very tippy-top. Apparently the mere bourgeois didn’t have enough juice.

As the Denver Post correctly states, the margin of error in the House for this final vote is quite low, and just a few GOP representatives breaking with leadership could be enough to scuttle the whole thing–indeed the last such opportunity to prevent this unpopular legislation from becoming law. We can’t rule that possibility out, but Coffman has given us little to suggest he’s going to change course.

That being the case, this charade is getting awfully tired.

“Last-Minute Mike” Checks Box on Net Neutrality

Rep. Mike Coffman (R) cares a lot.

We’d be remiss if we didn’t give some mention to Rep. Mike Coffman’s letter the day before yesterday to Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai, requesting a delay in the commission’s vote on new rules that could lead to the end of “net neutrality”–the principle of internet communications that all traffic should be routed equally across the network:

After a chorus of Democratic and Independent lawmakers called for the FCC to delay its planned vote on a rollback of net neutrality protections, at least one Republican is now asking the agency to hit pause, as a few others express tempered skepticism of the proposal.

This week, Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) sent a letter to FCC chairman Ajit Pai calling for a delay to let Congress pass legislation on the issue. “The Internet has been and remains a transformative tool, and I am concerned that any action you may take to alter the rules under which it functions may well have significant unanticipated negative consequences,” Coffman writes. “Therefore, I urge you to delay your upcoming vote and provide and provide Congress with the opportunity to hold hearings on the net neutrality issue and to pass permanent open Internet legislation.”

In response Rep. Coffman is getting praise from activists on the issue as one of the only Republicans calling for a delay in the vote, which set for today. Sen. Cory Gardner has already put his weasel-worded stamp of approval on the proposal, and there is very little to suggest that Coffman’s belated call for a pause in the FCC’s long-anticipated rulemaking will have any impact.

It’s just the latest instance of Rep. Coffman, perennially considered one of the most vulnerable Republican incumbents in the entire nation, moving to inoculate himself personally against a bad story for Republicans nationally that he has no real power to affect the course of–especially not when he weighs in at the last possible moment as with his December 12 letter to the FCC. Much like Coffman’s high-publicity call for a discharge petition to force a vote on legislation to protect undocumented immigrants who came here as children, which he quietly abandoned a few days later, this is a great political opportunity to look good to left-leaning swing voters in his district.

As a practical matter, it’s meaningless. Coffman can’t stop or even slow down the destruction of net neutrality, and he remains a member of the party in power that is actually doing all these things he supposedly objects to.

At the end of the day, nothing else matters.