Late Friday, a story went up at Politico that suggested national Democrats are "pulling out" of the Colorado CD-6 race, the marquee battleground matchup between Republican incumbent Rep. Mike Coffman and Democratic challenger Andrew Romanoff:
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee had reserved $1.4 million for TV spending to boost Romanoff in the final two weeks of his race against Republican Rep. Mike Coffman. But a DCCC aide said Friday that those funds would be distributed to other races…
Romanoff, a former state House speaker and unsuccessful 2010 Senate candidate, was once regarded as one of his party’s top 2014 hopefuls. But, with Republicans benefiting from a favorable national environment and Coffman running an energetic reelection campaign, Romanoff has seen his prospects dim.
As reports at Politico often do at election time, Alex Isenstadt's brief story is pretty slanted–reflecting spin that was clearly imparted to him as he prepared to write this story. On the other hand, the Denver Post's Jon Murray has a much more balanced look at these developments, with an understanding of how elections work in Colorado today that Politico's reporter evidently lacks.
[T]he DCCC is focusing its money on Democratic incumbents newly under attack by outside Republican groups, which sunk $4.2 million on new ad buys Thursday. But the DCCC still is supporting Romanoff’s challenge of U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman next week by chipping in money to expand the campaign’s own ad buy, the DCCC and Romanoff’s campaign say, and by supporting its field operations… [Pols emphasis]
“National Democrats have clearly given up on Andrew Romanoff,” suggested Tyler Q. Houlton, a spokesman for the DCCC’s counterpart, the National Republican Congressional Committeee.
Well, not entirely.
DCCC spokeswoman Emily Bittner countered: “This is still a very winnable race, and Romanoff is well-funded and in a competitive position to bring it across the finish line.” In fundraising announcements this week, Romanoff announced a third-quarter haul of $1.1 million, besting Coffman’s $855,000 in contributions.
There's no question that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) making last-minute redirections of money provides useful "horse race" message opportunities for Republicans. Much like reports last month that the Republican Governors Association (RGA) had ended buys in the Colorado gubernatorial race, which proved to be a short pause in the action when a subsequent round of polls gave Bob Beauprez's campaign a shot in the arm, of course the other side is going to spin these things to their advantage. If they're not, they're not doing their jobs.
In the case of Romanoff's CD-6 bid, though, the situation really isn't so simple. For starters, Romanoff has consistently outraised the Republican incumbent in this race, including the most recent results announced last week as Murray reports. This isn't a situation where the candidate is flagging at the close–Romanoff's unexpected fundraising ability has been an important theme in the race all along. Romanoff's ability to bring in the funds he needed to compete in this race himself has silenced many critics, including this blog, who were concerned that Romanoff would self-limit his ability to compete by swearing off various kinds of money. This fact alone strongly works against any Republican spin that Romanoff is "losing momentum."
Another thing to keep in mind is that, especially in Colorado, expensive TV advertising hit a point of diminishing return some time ago–weeks, months? We'll leave that to readers to determine. But because in Colorado every registered voter will receive a mail ballot this week, the last few weeks of TV ad time just aren't as critical as they are in other states where most voters cast ballots on Election Day. At this point, investing in the coordinated Democratic field campaign to get those mail ballots in is far more important to victory than shoveling more money into ads that the voters are already sick of.
Everything we hear today is consistent with Murray's reporting–the DCCC remains committed to CD-6 in the ways that matter. And in Colorado, what wins elections is three focused weeks of getting out the vote.