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November 06, 2014 10:52 am MST

Andrew Romanoff: Not Just Beaten, But Shellacked

  • by: Colorado Pols
Andrew Romanoff.
Andrew Romanoff.

As Colorado Public Radio's Sandra Fish noted yesterday, Democrats substantially outspent Republicans in this year's biggest congressional matchup in Colorado, the CD-6 race–a race that Republican Mike Coffman, as of the latest counts, won by nearly ten points.

U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman will return to Congress after facing a difficult challenge from former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff in a race that cost nearly $16.5 million, according to Sunlight.

Romanoff outspent Coffman by more than $1 million through Oct. 15. But Romanoff faced a barrage of attacks ads from the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Fish offers this handy graph to show how Democrats outspent the GOP in CD-6 this year:

The final result of the CD-6 race this year contrasts against two years ago, when underfunded underdog Democratic state Rep. Joe Miklosi ran against Coffman and lost by only two points. There is of course the difference in the electorate between 2012 and this year, but not enough to fully account for the difference in the two outcomes. It's clear, based on polling in downballot races in the same district this year in addition to the difference from 2012, that Democrat Andrew Romanoff substantially underperformed in this race.

For us, watching the much better-equipped Romanoff get beaten so handily was akin to the experience of 2011's Proposition 103 versus last year's Amendment 66. Both school finance tax increase measures, Proposition 103 ran a shoestring campaign with almost no money while Amendment 66 had a $10 million war chest. The rest, as our readers know, is history: all the millions spent on Amendment 66 didn't move the needle a bit over Proposition 103's defeat.

The lesson in both? Money has to be there to win, but it can't save you from yourself. Despite Romanoff's surprisingly strong ability to raise money for this race, as a candidate he repeatedly failed to either distinguish himself or capitalize on Coffman's weaknesses. Romanoff's message, like the in-retrospect bad idea to kick off his campaign with a right-leaning "balance the budget" theme, failed to motivate the Democratic base. And as we saw in the U.S. Senate race, Coffman's willingness to audaciously reinvent himself ran laps around Romanoff's capacity to discredit him.

Democrats we've talked to since Tuesday night remain convinced that CD-6 is a pickup opportunity for the right Democratic candidate in the right year. In hindsight, might Karen Middleton have run a better race? In 2016, Democrats get another shot at Coffman–and with Coffman now very much aware of the perennial threat in his swing district, they'll need to make that one count. The more distance Coffman can put between his hard-right conservative past and his new "moderate" image, the harder it will be to ever dislodge him.


21 thoughts on “Andrew Romanoff: Not Just Beaten, But Shellacked

  1. This was foreseeable.  Romanoff is a classic neoliberal DLC centrist Dem–maybe not a fatal flaw; but, as this article points out, maybe none too inspiring to the base.  And, Romanoff's record–his sponsorship of the awful 2006 anti-immigrant legislation–would hardly have been inspiring to the Latino community that Dems needed so badly at the polls this year.  I could, but won't, quote Harry S. Truman again.

    1. So if I understand correctly, in a suburban swing district, Dems need to run an urban liberal in order to win?

      Andrew was an excellent candidate who would have made an excellent Representative and who, ironically given your comments about his DLC tendencies, was castigated by the RCCC and Coffman as being an Obama Socialist who wants to take everyone's money through tax increases and didn't believe Obamacare went far enough.

      Exactly who do you think would have been a good fit in that district?  

      1. Romanoff represented a central Denver (urban??) district in the House, before moving to the 6th to run; so he was certainly urban.  It is possible to run on solid Democratic values without being an "urban liberal".  The evidence suggests that Romanoff was not a good fit.  Maybe the voters detected a hint of hubris or superiority based on his education at Yale and Harvard.  The evidence also suggests that he was not quite as good a candidate as Joe Miklosi (who got his master's at UC-Denver) either; so perhaps Miklosi would have been a good fit (show me evidence to the contrary).  And, as suggested above, it's hard to imagine that Middleton (master's from UC Denver and another from DU) would've done worse.

      2. A good fit would have been someone who constantly hit on the jobs and the economy.  Tell people that you're going to work to make sure that companies can set up shop and start hiring.  Both stronghold counties, Pueblo and Adams, that are Dem strongholds are also areas where the economic recovery has barely touched anyone.  A strong message of turning things around economically would probably have resonated better instead of the single-issue of women's rights.


      3. You're right, Frank, he was a good fit and if a Mikolosi could get within two points in 2012, Romanoff probably could have won that year. Unfortunately this was a much tougher year and Romanoff's ads were pretty blah. Coffman had another two years of incumbency behind him and Romanoff's lackluster messaging didn't have enough oomph to fire up enough people to come out and vote to fire the guy they already had.

        And yes, his initial rightie economics ad went over like a lead balloon with Dems. It's so completely obvious that the economic mantra of the right is bull and that the problem isn't too much government spending but not enough people making enough money to feed the consumer economy and create jobs.

        Hick has always had lots of moderate Republican crossover votes. He's always been popular with many old fashioned Main St Republicans.  But Coffman, no matter what he says or does, is just fine wth pretty much all Republicans, including moderates. Those weren't the votes Romanoff was going to take from a Republican incumbent. He needed  for average Dems, not just the base, to fall in love with him and turn out in much bigger than average midterm numbers and he didn't get it done.  

          1. There I was cruising along in let bygones be bygones mode, ready to cheer Romanoff on (and I still did) when that ad first hit me like a splash of cold water, then reminded me how ridiculous Romanoff's previous tantrum inspired attempt to primary fellow centrist Bennet as the supposed progressive champion was and how much it pissed me off at the time.   I thought it was smart of him to  return to running as his true centrist self in a mixed district (couldn't very well do that to primary another centrist) but throwing that nonsense in wasn't necessary and possibly struck other Dems the way it struck me without pealing off any support from Coffman. Not saying that one ad was the reason he lost. They were all pretty lackluster but the choice represented by that one was just baffling.

  2. I disagree.  I think Andrew ran a good race, but couldn't overcome the "new"  Mike Coffman who kept calling himself a moderate and telling falsehoods about his record and about Andrew's.  One ad talked of Romanoff's support of Refs C and D, but ignored the fact that it was Republican Governor Owens' plan as well.  It was just a tough year for Dems, and Udall's one note campaign hurt Andrew.

    1. If Degette ever retires he could go for her seat. Pretty clear winning a thoroughly safe Dem seat is the limit of his capability. I would have no faith contributing my energy or money to anything beyond that, sad to say. The self righteousness he displayed in his spiteful run at Bennet and in his holier than thou no PAC money run for the House is the least appealing aspect of his persona and one that is apparently too integral to who he is to be overcome. It's not a trait that wins purple district or state elections.

  3. Dem message: "We don't like our 2-term, resoundingly re-elected, historically significant President, and we don't like the profound health care reform he passed, and we say we like many things Republicans also say they like, so, if you can think of a reason to vote for us that we can't, please do."

      1. Running away from the President, and advising their candidates to do the same, was the dumbest mistake the DCCC made. Those who didn't follow this bad advice, (Alan Grayson springs to mind) won their races. If even the Dems in Congress, and those who would have liked to have been, won't support the President, why shouldn't I just vote for the guy who philosophically opposes him?

    1. The basic elements of that message have been the default message for Dems since the Reagan era despite the fact that the policies that poll the best aren't conservative polices and would be winners for Dems if they grew a pair and were as strong in their messaging as Rs are. If Dem pols weren't been such a trembling fearful bunch, majorities wouldn't be voting for Rs whose policies they poll against instead.

      Time to stop blaming Rs for lying or blaming Limbaugh or Fox. Obama , a black guy with a Muslim sounding name, overcame all of that but apparently was too cautious to be an inspiring president once he got there, twice, by being an inspiring candidate.  So we know putting an inspiring message out there can be done and can win in the face of all those things we whine about.  

      Time to realize that the default please don't be mad at me for being a Dem, I'm almost as conservative as a real Republican message is a loser. It only worked for Clinton and his DLC because of Clinton's good ol'boy charisma. If the choice is presented as between the real thing and the almost just like it but a little kinder gentler thing,  the latter isn't going to be the the winner except when all the planets align. They usually don't.

      1. And PS: Objective reality being what it is, Dems should have the advantage of the ability to be strong and right while Rs are stuck with wrong, no matter how strong. How can Dem pols continue to be so blind and so scared when this has been demonstrated over and over and over again? And it's just getting worse and worse. Dem campaigns are getting lamer and lamer. It's really exhausting being a Dem in the 21st century.

  4. Republicans know how to message.  Why, just on The Daily Show last night:

    "Gas prices are below $3!  Unemployment rate is down!  GDP is up! The GOP reign has already had a tremendous impact for the US!!  Go GOP!!!!"

    God, the Dems are pathetic and I'm exhausted trying to defend them.


    Andrew, while a nice guy, simply can't run an effective campaign.  I said last year that he would remain an electoral loser unless he rethought accepting PAC money.  

    As noted elsewhere, HD6 is overwhelmingly Democratic and his persona was well suited to it.  Once he impressed a few of the movers and shakers in HD6, his election was assured.  On a broader canvas, however, he can't win.

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