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.

8 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Early Worm says:

    In a strange way, I think that Tipton and maybe even Buck are more at risk than Coffman. If the Democrats maintain a +12 advantage in the vote, Tipton (+6 Republican partisan lean in district) and Buck (+13) are in play. Coffman (-2), on the surface, is more at risk, but, as much as I hate to admit it, he is battle tested. He has demonstrated that he can appease the right wing of his party, and still attract independent voters. Tipton and Buck have never had to master that skill, and they are too old to figure it out now.   

  2. The D-trip has targeted both Coffman and Tipton as majority-flipping districts. Coffman is tough, but he might not be able to survive the wave. Also, falling in to the "have to make cuts" line is going to hurt him; if the House tries to move a significant stripping of Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid and Coffman goes along, he's going to kill his chances IMHO.

  3. Zappatero says:

    CPols really needs to activate the “Show Partial Post “ function. 

    It takes far too much time for me to scroll thru long posts like this when I need something on which I can criticize SFL Bennet. 

    Have a great weekend!


  4. JohnInDenver says:

    A few raincoats for the “Coffman could be hosed” narrative.

    1. Incumbency matters. If the seat were open, the district would have a distinct blue-ish tinge, but Coffman has been showing up, smiling at people, and learning to speak appropriately to various communities.

    2. Next July or August, Coffman will be able to crow a fair amount about the new VA hospital opening in his district. There’s going to be a wave of new jobs and happy people that SOMETHING finally happened and the VA was able to open. The delayed and over budget hospital isn’t all sunlight and roses, but Coffman will be able to point to “his oversight” and “holding the government to account” as ribbons are cut.

    3. Jason Crow is pushing his opposition to Coffman — but doesn’t appear to be making a positive appeal for something he will do.

    “This isn’t just a race for a congressional seat, this is a fight for a way of life. More of the same is what got us to where we are today, and enough is enough. I’m running for Congress so that you and your family can compete on a level playing field, rather than fighting uphill against special interests and a rigged political system. It has become very clear who Coffman is fighting for, and it’s not those of us back here.”

    I hope I’m wrong, that somehow the Democrats will find someone who is an effective candidate against Coffman and the headwinds for Republicans are strong enough to push Coffman down to the benefit of Crow (or whoever is the Democratic candidate). But the last few elections have had me hoping — and so far, Coffman continues to “represent” his district.

  5. MADCO says:

    If CD6 could be won by better ideas or even better people, Coffman would have lost long ago.

    Where's Hank?
    Not to mention Joe, Andrew, and Morgan.  All better candidates.  All defeated.

    "Social Security is a Ponzi scheme"  They voted for him.

    House Veterans Affairs and Armed Forces committees.  (VA Med center billions and billions over budget.  Vets benefits reduced year after year.) They voted for him.

    He's a weasel with three (3) publicly funded pensions who has agreed that publicly funded pensions should be converted to defined contribution and reduced. (his are defined benefit and have increased since he got them) They voted for him.

    Immigrants and other DACA fans?  taxpayers? students with student loans? climate change believers?   Yet he wins.


    The problem with generic Dem polls is that eventually, voters need to know a candidate's name. The newest Colorado Senator found a way around that kind o problem – waiting until the last minute to clear the caucus field and run on anything but his own history.

    If CD6 is going to flip it's not going to be the result of 10-20% of the voters suddenly realizing Coffman sucks. Are there enough new voters? Will Coffman admit to dating teenagers or committing felonies?

    Maybe Coffman runs great campaigns. Maybe it's the CD6 voters.

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