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May 14, 2018 03:50 PM UTC

Levi Tillemann's Odd Gambit

  • by: Colorado Pols

UPDATE #2: Kara Mason updating, Levi Tillemann chokes:

Tillemann, a tech entrepreneur who worked with the Obama administration, said Friday he would either drop out of the race or call on fellow Democrat Jason Crow, an Army Ranger veteran and lawyer who has backing from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, to drop out of the race, depending on whether poll numbers show that Tillemann has a shot at winning against incumbent Congressman Mike Coffman, a Republican from Aurora.

Tillemann campaign officials said they would not release the polling data immediately because it “includes valuable data.” [Pols emphasis]

…It’s unclear what the polling numbers were for Crow in that survey or what details of each candidate’s bios were given…[i]n a separate PPP poll from February, Crow had a 10-point lead over Coffman.

And with that, the stunt Levi Tillemann rolled out last week with fanfare becomes a bad joke. Almost certainly this poll shows that frontrunner Jason Crow would perform better in a head-to-head matchup against incumbent Rep. Mike Coffman, a fully predictable result given Crow’s better name ID. Needless to say, that would not be a result helpful to Tillemann. It appears that Tillemann won’t be calling for Crow to get out of the race now, so at least there’s that.

We assumed earlier today that Tillemann surely must have known something about the results of a poll his campaign commissioned in order to have gone forward with the announcement that either he or Crow should pull out of the race based on its results. Now it appears that Tillemann was flying blind.

Which means this was a very bad idea. If we were Crow, we’d offer to pick up the tab.


UPDATE: Via Kara Mason at the Aurora Sentinel:

Alex Ball, a spokeswoman for Crow, said Tillemann should focus on running a campaign of integrity instead of dropping out.

“After appearing at so many candidate forums with Mr. Tillemann during this campaign, Jason would welcome another opportunity to debate with Mr. Tillemann at an event sponsored by local media organizations once Mr. Tillemann joins Jason in signing the Clean Campaign Pledge,” Ball said in an email. “It would be a shame if Mr. Tillemann chose to just drop out of the race instead. As Mr. Tillemann decides what to do, Jason Crow will continue running a positive, transparent, people-focused campaign – the kind of campaign that probably explains Jason’s resounding victory at the Democratic Assembly.”


Levi Tillemann.

Ernest Luning of the former Colorado Statesman reports on an odd development in the Democratic primary in CD-6–underdog challenger Levi Tillemann is reportedly awaiting the results of polling that he has declared will decide for him whether to continue in the race against Jason Crow:

Democratic congressional candidate Levi Tilleman said Friday he’ll drop out of the 6th District primary if a poll he has commissioned shows that primary rival Jason Crow is the only Democrat who can unseat five-term Republican Mike Coffman in the suburban swing seat.

Tillemann told Colorado Politics he expects to have the results in hand Monday of a survey measuring the two Democrats’ relative strength against Coffman and will quit the race the next day “for the good of the nation and the party” if it looks like Crow’s position is “substantially” better.

But if it turns out national Democrats have been bluffing, Tillemann added, he plans to call on Crow to withdraw and for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to “stop meddling” in the party’s primaries.

Tillemann has only raised a small fraction of the money Crow has, and overall has been considered the minor candidate in the Democratic CD-6 primary–enough that Tillemann reaching the ballot during the CD-6 assembly at all was a bit of a surprise. Tillemann has sought to capitalize on a story from early January (and recirculated more recently in national media) about a conversation with Rep. Steny Hoyer in which Tillemann was told rather frankly that Crow was the more viable candidate. This may not go down as the smoothest moment of intraparty diplomacy in history, but given Tillemann’s lack of momentum we’d say Hoyer’s reasoning has been validated.

With all of this in mind, we are curious about what Tillemann’s poll will have to say about this race–not just about Tillemann, but the vulnerability of incumbent Rep. Mike Coffman in general. As for the poll’s stated purpose, it’s very unlikely that Tillemann would set this up without some idea of the outcome–but the odds that Tillemann would actually withdraw from the primary, even if the polls does come back with numbers that look bad, seem highly remote. Unless, of course, this is just a way to acknowledge the inevitable.

There’s nothing we can see here to change the trajectory of this race, but it makes for interesting scenery. We’ll update when the poll is released no matter what it says.


22 thoughts on “Levi Tillemann’s Odd Gambit

  1. I'm torn on Levi because I don't like the DCCC meddling with primaries. At the same time, he's not competitive and trying to pull in the national progs out of indignation seems like desperation.

    I personally believe Crow will be much more competitive against Coffman than Tillemann. That's item 1, 2, and 3 on my list.

      1. I got no dog in this horse race, and since I’m not your neighbor, no opinion of either, either . . . 

        . . . but c’mon a poll that he commissions, and then won’t release details of??? Really??  

        Makes me wonder if this bacon cheeseburger is really kosher? . . . and if I shouldn’t be buying more extended warranties? . . . and what took that Nigerian prince so long to finally get hold of me, and why he hasn’t had his ambassador stop by yet like he said he would? . . . and should I bet all my Nigerian winnings on the Rockies winning the Super Bowl again this year?

        (Does he say “Believe me.  Believe me.” too?? . . .

        . . . ‘cuz I really want to, but I need to be told to first.)

        1. Well- I see it now
          fund your own damm poll, don't release the crosstabs and 2nd deviation – it cannot be true.

          PAC funds your poll,  don't release the detail , no problem.


          from the release: 
          (bolding is mine) 

          MEDIA ALERT:
          Levi Tillemann Leads Mike Coffman in General Election Poll by Wider Margin than Jason Crow 

          Joe Erlich, (202) 697-0417 or

          Aurora, Colorado — A new poll by Public Policy Polling (PPP) shows Democrat Levi Tillemann as the only candidate with a statistically significant advantage over Republican Mike Coffman in a general election match-up. 

          Last week, in response to claims by DCCC Chair Ben Ray Lujan that unreleased polling showed “very clearly” that Tillemann could not beat Coffman, Levi for Colorado commissioned a poll with PPP.

          “Lujan's claims didn’t resonate with what we were seeing in the district. It felt like a convenient, but dishonest, excuse for their ongoing interference in our primary” said Tillemann. Of note, PPP is the same polling agency used by Tillemann’s opponent for his much touted head-to-head poll against Coffman. Tillemann went a step further, promising that if the poll showed he did not have a credible path to defeating Coffman in the general election, for the good of the country and the Democratic Party, Tillemann would immediately withdraw from the race. 

          Tillemann will not be withdrawing. 

          The poll surveyed 606 likely voters on two rounds of questions about head-to-head matchups between both Democratic challengers and Mike Coffman. First the poll questioned respondents offering no information apart from party affiliation and the candidates’ names. In that round, both Tillemann and his opponent are statistically tied with Coffman; this is attributable to low name recognition and biographical knowledge regarding the Democratic contenders. The poll then offered positive biographical details about both Levi Tillemann (Obama appointee, clean-energy entrepreneur, and language fluency) and his opponent (Army veteran, father, and attorney). With biographical information on both Tillemann and his Democratic opponent, Tillemann opened up a significant lead (43%/38%) against Coffman. This result represents the only head-to-head matchup with Coffman outside the poll’s ±4% statistical margin of error. 

          “These are great results and I’m not surprised” said Tillemann. “As we’ve knocked on thousands of doors across the district, it’s become clear that most voters are still learning about me and my primary opponent. What they do know is that they’re ready for a change. Moreover, when people hear about my background they see a candidate who has invested in our diverse communities and future, and is profoundly different from Mike Coffman. That contrast is much less clear for my primary opponent.”

          While the poll answered important questions regarding general election viability for both Democratic candidates, it also raised questions regarding the integrity of Jason Crow and his patrons in Washington, DC. “The Crow team either polled on Levi and discovered that he posed a credible threat to Coffman in the general election, then chose to lie about it. Or they didn’t poll on him, pretended they had, and chose to lie about it. This is part of a disturbing pattern of deception. Crow claims he’s not accepting corporate PAC money (he does, funneled through special interest PACs); he claimed he wasn’t being helped by the DCCC (he was); and he claimed he came from a family of bricklayers (his father owns a wealth managerment firm). Here, once again, Mr. Crow and his party bosses are lying to the voters of the 6th Congressional District” said Joe Erlich, a senior staffer at Levi for Colorado. “It’s deeply troubling.” 

          Tillemann added, “integrity used to be considered an asset in pursuit of public office, and getting caught in a bald-faced lie was often enough to end a career. Donald Trump has removed all shame from GOP politicians. We worry Mr. Crow and the DCCC may have contracted that same virus. They seem to believe lying is OK so long as they can get away with it. As Democrats, we must reject this race to the bottom.” 

          Jason Crow and his allies in the DCCC have, once again, been caught red handed. They are lying to the voters of Colorado and undermining progressive candidates and ideals across the country. It’s divisive and will hurt our chances against Coffman in November. It goes against everything we as Democrats need to be fighting for right now. Because of this, Crow is damaged goods. He should withdraw from the race and the DCCC should stop their meddling in the Democratic Primaries nationally. 

          The DCCC has justified their interference arguing that it will bring Democrats a payday in November. This poll makes it clear Democrats don’t need to compromise their values for that payday. “We want something more,” said Tillemann. “We want a payday for truth, a payday for justice and a payday for democracy


          1. Tell you what, how about Levi shows Coffman the devastating results from this indisputable poll, and calls for him to drop out?  (“Why bother Mike, take your three or four retirements, save some face, and start lobbying for the big green before your stock gets hammered and you’re left with as much political future and clout as your Ex”?)

            If Coffman does drop out, and hell, why wouldn’t he (de poll, de poll, boss, de poll!), I promise I’ll move Caldara to CD-6 and vote for Levi in both the primary and the general!

      2. "However, the campaign would say the poll, conducted by Public Policy Polling, showed Tillemann with a “significant lead” against Coffman — 43 percent to 38 percent."

        "In a separate PPP poll from February, Crow had a 10-point lead over Coffman."

        Pardon me for intruding, but isn't a 10-point lead > a 5-point lead? The same article goes on to note that Tillemann's campaign didn't release details on the Crow side of the argument, so there's nothing to show that he's "polling stronger than Crow." He's literally just telling you to trust him. I don't trust that.

        1. 10 points in February is, oddly, only relevant inMay if it's still 10 points.
          If it's less than 10 – well, less is not more and is going the wrong direction.

          1. But what's changed since February apart from the weather? The only adds I've seen have been about Johnston or Mitchell. Nothing is acting to move those numbers one way or another so any difference however small would just be statistical noise. If they aren't supposed to be relevant anymore, then where are the competing digits to make them irrelevant? 

            If you aren't releasing the polling numbers you're talking about, the general rule is that the numbers don't say what you want them to say. 

          2. Do allow me to apologize slightly, having read the actual poll rather than the story, it would seem the 10-point lead was after message testing. The pre-message testing had Crow up by 5, the same as Tillemann in his poll. 

            1. It's still a stronger showing for Crow, who led by 5 points before the push poll boost, 10 after.  Tilleman n doesn't lead Coffman until after the push is given, and then only by five points.

    1. Coffman apparently has a heckuva staff and an efficient political propaganda machine.

      My kids live in CD6, and they're bombarded with Coffman mailer pieces. They're not going to vote for Coffman, but they think that he "might be OK on veteran's issues". We're going to test that out by writing to Coffman's office to see if he'll intercede on behalf of their Viet vet dad.

      So I don't like the idea of the DCCC meddling with primaries, but I do think that Crow might be stronger against Coffman, because Crow has been such an advocate with vets and has a strong military record himself.

      Either Crow or Tillerman is going to have to contend with a Coffman propaganda blitz on English and Spanish radio, TV, digital and print media.  The RCCC and its various committees are very good at what they do.

      Last election, they successfully painted Morgan Carroll as an uncaring stuck-up lawyer, possibly friendly to ISIS terrorists. They portrayed Mike Coffman as really concerned about immigrants and veterans, but unable to accomplish much on their behalf because of "Washington insiders".

      Roger Edwards may have made some impact getting loyal Republicans to question whether Mike Cofman is really conservative enough for them, but so far, I haven't seen evidence of that impace.


      1. My uncle Leon is as much an advocate for vets as Coffman. And no one would elect him to anything.

        First – google vets access to healthcare  medicaid

        that's right – Medicaid is crucial to vets.  Where's Coffman?

        Check out the waste and missed goals for the Aurora VA medical center. What?! IF only there was some kind of oversight. There outta be a law! And Congress should be held accountable. Coffman.

        He voted for the healthcare bill even Trump hated because it was "too mean." 

        He called Social Security a ponzi scheme and called for privatization. That's right – vets depend on Social Security.

        If you don't know Bernie  Rogoff, or why his endorsement for Levi is so meaningful, it's ok. Hardly anyone does, but Bernie knows.

        I hope all voters opposed to the Trump agenda will vote for the D nominee,  even if it's Steny Hoyer or Nancy Pelosi because Coffman is just another reliable backbench vote for the Trump agenda. 


      2. I truly believe that if Roger Edwards had really wanted to run in the primary against Coffman, he would’ve gotten his pruney ass ( “A” is for . . .) out and gathered enough petition signatures to make the ballot instead of sitting at home working on his ABCs.

  2. The pro-Crow crowd, including the DCCC and Nancy Pelosi will now say that a poll doesn't mean anything – though it is the only reason they have to claim that Tilleman can't win. And  the polling shows Tilleman has a stronger result.

    They will challenge Tilleman to release the full poll results- whch Crow never did – which Tilleman will in time.

    The Crow crowd will whine about some phoney clean campaign pledge that Levi doesn't need.  Show up to meet him – listen to him talk to your neighbors about what he believes and how and why he will serve us well in Congress.

    If after that you still want someone else – ok.

    But if after that you realize what you just heard –  VOTE TILLEMAN. 

    And tell Pelosi, Hoyer and the DCCC to get behind him.

    1. No doubt about that.  Seems to have worked well in the past.

      But you have to admit, a primary voter who agrees with the DCCC and other Big Name Ds who claim the D to vote for is the one who is more electable in the general – getting a sense of which candidate that is may be helpful.

      Of course, I want my Rep to stop blindly following the Trump agenda. But I want more.

  3. "…Almost certainly this poll shows that frontrunner Jason Crow would perform better in a head-to-head matchup against incumbent Rep. Mike Coffman, …."

    If only it were true.

    "First the poll questioned respondents offering no information apart from party affiliation and the candidates’ names. In that round, both Tillemann and his opponent are statistically tied with Coffman; this is attributable to low name recognition and biographical knowledge regarding the Democratic contenders. The poll then offered positive biographical details about both Levi Tillemann (Obama appointee, clean-energy entrepreneur, and language fluency) and his opponent (Army veteran, father, and attorney). With biographical information on both Tillemann and his Democratic opponent, Tillemann opened up a significant lead (43%/38%) against Coffman. This result represents the only head-to-head matchup with Coffman outside the poll’s ±4% statistical margin of error. "

    Huh. With just names- tied all the way round

    When people get to know Levi, he moves ahead but Crow does not, just like field and phones are reporting –

    Like anyone else who cares- I've asked for the polling detail.  I'm pretty sure I'm more interested in details others won't care much about. Think street level and voting demos.   

    Ahhh – I remeber just six months ago my D neighbors were excited that generic D was polling so well.  Well –  generic D can't win.  

    Vote Levi.

  4. Dio’s new(est) rules suggestions:  

    It really doesn’t matter how smart, attractive, hard working, dedicated, or what a visionary genius that you are, if you can’t out-campaign your opponents — at every stage — and convince voters you are the guy or gal they’ve been waiting for, wanting, needing, then you simply shouldn’t even be in the race.

    Corollary:  If you’re blaming anyone else — anyone else — for the majority of voters not recognizing your intelligence, attractiveness, untiring stamina, dedication, or visionary genius, then you’re not campaigning right, or enough, or to win — you’re whining.  Not only that, you’re being a drag on your own party’s chances.

    Corollary:  STFU and campaign to win. If you don’t, you probably won’t (but you may help drag your party down).  If you’re not going to campaign to win, just STFU anyway.

    Corollary:  I’m not voting for anyone anymore wasting any minute of precious time and effort whining about not be sufficiently or properly recognized, instead of campaigning to win.  (Self-declarations of your winning-worthiness don’t count.)

    . . . 

    These days everyone wants to be invited to the party, but no one wants to have to help pay the band!?

  5. Polling on "Levi Tillemann (Obama appointee, clean-energy entrepreneur, and language fluency) and his opponent (Army veteran, father, and attorney). "

    Going to the websites, the "meet the candidate" pages have

    Tillemann:  descendant of an entrepreneur, a grandmother in Colorado politics, and grandfather in politics; started Regis on a debate scholarship, transferred to Yale; PhD from Johns Hopkins. Started IRIS Engines, shifted to electric vehicles; advisor in Obama Administration Energy Dept.; commentary author; wrote a book; speaks multiple languages; partner at Valence Strategic.

    Crow:   grew up working class; paid his own way through college; Distinguished Military Graduate; served, led, earned Bronze star; 2 more tours; active on veterans' issues, esp. health and substance abuse; law practice focused on small business; married to professor of environmental policy and community disaster recover; 2 kids.

    1. Are the push polling descriptions accurate enough?

    2. In politics these days, are brief positive descriptions the basis for choice? Or, heavens, could there be some impact of negative descriptors, too?

    I don't have a vote nor much at stake in the outcome of this silly polling exercise. I'm thinking the campaign should be a demonstration of overall political skills and fit for the district, and it is unrealistic to expect either of the candidates to drop out 6 weeks before a primary vote.

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