2016 Won’t Be Like 2014 (Or 2010)

Sen. Michael Bennet, President Barack Obama.

Sen. Michael Bennet, President Barack Obama.

Famed political analyst Stuart Rothenberg has a smart writeup at Roll Call today on the state of play in Colorado ahead of the 2016 U.S. Senate race–with some perspective that’s quite valuable if you’re using past performance as a predictor of future results:

Republican strategists have not given up hope of recruiting a top-tier challenger, such as Rep. Mike Coffman, who might be able to mount the sort of come-from-behind effort then-Rep. Cory Gardner did to upset Democratic Sen. Mark Udall last cycle.

But even knowledgeable Republicans wouldn’t tell you the Colorado Senate race is close to a tossup now. And in their most candid moments they might even tell you the race may never get any closer than where it is now — leaning in Bennet’s favor…

Colorado voters who wanted to send a message of dissatisfaction about the president could only do so by voting against Bennet, and subsequently Udall. That is a different dynamic from the one that occurs in presidential election years, such as 2016.

Next fall, voters won’t automatically see the Senate race as a way to make a statement about the presidential race, and the GOP won’t have a strong voter turnout advantage, the way the party did in 2010 and 2014.

The last U.S. Senate race in a presidential election year in Colorado was 2008–the year when Mark Udall blew out Republican Bob Schaffer, in a race where Schaffer was hobbled by ties to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and generalized dissatisfaction with the Republican brand after eight years of George W. Bush in the White House. In 2010 and 2014, election years where Democrats in Colorado fought uphill battles, presidential-year turnout ebbed, and conservative voters in this state surged to the polls. Even at the height of the 2010 GOP wave, Bennet managed to come out ahead of the decidedly out-of-the-mainstream GOP nominee Ken Buck. In 2014, Cory Gardner’s audacious con job airtight message discipline powered him past Udall’s uninspiring single-issue negative campaign.

In 2016, there is no Cory Gardner Colorado Republicans can turn to for a fresh start, and Bennet will not face the same kind of “Teflon” opponent Udall did. As Rothenberg correctly notes, presumed 2016 U.S. Senate frontrunner Mike Coffman has his own long record of immoderation, like in 2012 when he told attendees at a GOP fundraiser that President Barack Obama “is just not an American.” While Coffman has managed to keep his job since that major on-camera gaffe three years ago, Rothenberg is absolutely right that “Democrats undoubtedly would use that sound bite to introduce him to voters statewide.” Bennet may not be the left’s biggest hero today after spurning them on issues like the Keystone XL pipeline, but Coffman has enough fringe ugliness in his background for Bennet to show a clear distinction with the broad center of Colorado voters.

Rothenberg concludes, and from our view there’s nothing with which to disagree:

Democrats have plenty of reasons to keep Colorado on their radar screens, and Republicans have plenty of reasons to look for a strong challenger who can take advantage of the state’s fundamental competitiveness.

But right now, it is much easier for Democrats to defend the seat than it is for Republicans to win it back from Bennet.

These hard facts are a big reason why we’re waiting to see if Coffman makes the jump to the 2016 U.S. Senate race at all, especially with a strong Democratic challenge for his CD-6 seat threatening from Colorado Senate Minority Leader Morgan Carroll. Whatever momentum Colorado Republicans may feel after 2014 is, looking ahead today, fraught with uncertainty–with a very different electorate than the last two U.S. Senate races here, and no “ace in the hole” lying in wait to change the game.

Naturally, we’ll let you know if we see one.

19 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. bullshit! says:

    It's the Bennet-haters who are not ready for this message, not the GOP. Thank you, David Sirota!

    • Zappatero says:

      Who hates Bennet? Not the proprietors of this here blog. Is it hateful to point out his tepid record on issues that could and would fire up Democrats? Is it hateful to point out his manipulation of the process on key votes

      He got some huzzahs for slowing down the rush to approve the latest fast track trade agreement that has remained clouded in secrecy, but that one day delay seems to have been all for show and to get some good press before doing the deed:

      Who Are the Pro-TPP Democratic Senators?

      The telling quote:

      Of course, the likely outcome is the separate measures will pass out of the Senate, but the currency-related measure faces a rough road in the House and at the White House.

      Pro-trade Democrats, though, will be able to say they voted to get tough on trade even as they voted for a six-year fast-track trade bill.

      Ahead of the vote, Wyden claimed he had 14 senators on his side:

      Sen. Ron Wyden, ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, said earlier today that 14 Democrats were prepared to vote for cloture if there was a clear path for approval of the customs bill.

      Ten Democratic senators were named in the White House's press announcement of its Tuesday post-filibuster meeting with Democrats. (Politico wrote up the importance of that actionhere. Note that Politico's write-up also served to turn up the heat on those Democrats.)

      Who were the other four? The Hill had previously named two, Feinstein and McCaskill, who were siding with Wyden on "trade," and they indeed voted to defeat the second filibuster. Plus there were two surprises. We now have the result of the second vote on Fast Track. The filibuster was defeated 65–33 with two Republicans not voting. In addition to the original 10 names from the White House meeting, four additional senators indeed voted with Wyden and Republicans. 

      The entire list of pro-TPP Senate Democrats is below, with phone numbers. Enjoy.

      Michael Bennet (D-CO) — 202-224-5852

      Maria Cantwell (D-WA) —202-224-3441

      Ben Cardin (D-MD) —202-224-4524

      Tom Carper (D-DE) — 202-224-2441

      Chris Coons (D-DE) — 202-224-5042

      Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) —202-224-3841

      Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) —202-224-2043

      Tim Kaine (D-VA) —202-224-4024

      Claire McCaskill (D-MO) —202-224-6154

      Patty Murray (D-WA) —202-224-2621

      Bill Nelson (D-FL) — 202-224-5274

      Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) — 202-224-2841

      Mark Warner (D-VA) —202-224-2023

      Ron Wyden (D-OR) —202-224-5244

      What I hate is someone who calls himself a Democrat but who can't seem to figure out what a Democrat from Colorado should stand for. He joined the Blue Dogs faster than you can say triangulate. He said he'd lose his job over a public option, but did nothing further about it besides hyping his clever quote everywhere he could. He made sure union card check died a Republican-approved death. (No votes on cloture needed for that one.) And now he's playing the bankers'/big business game on this trade bill while pretending some beef exports and some environmental rules will make it all worth while. For some reason I'm not so sanguine.

      Labor is against the trade bill. Republicans are for it. Big Business is for it. Michael Bennet is for it. But hey, he's better than Coffman.

      • BlueCat says:

        You left out Obama. He's even more for it and everything in it than Bennet. Why is it none of the people who view Bennet as the Dem anti-Christ say the same things about Obama? Sure he gets some criticism but nothing like what Bennet, his political twin on pretty much everything but the pipeline, gets. It's not rational. 

  2. DawnPatrol says:

    My prayer is that the 2016 CO senatorial (or CD-6 house) race will be the one that finally takes out soulless con man, intellectual featherweight and habitual liar Mike Coffman and removes him permanently from the Colorado political scene, and will prove the election cycle which sows the seeds of scumbag Con Man Cory Gardner's inevitable political demise four years hence.

    Both of these disingenuous, low-down, craven cowards MUST GO.

  3. Moderatus says:

    The left hates Bennet. Coffman is a beloved veteran and popular conservative. Udall by a landslide! Rothenburg and Colorado Pols shining turds again.

    • FrankUnderwood says:

      Some of the more noisy ones on the left hate Bennet. Many of us are not crazy about him but will vote for him once we see what the alternative is.

      • BlueCat says:

        You mean Modster isn't an expert on the left? That said I don't think Bennet will have a cakewalk against Coffman. I think Coffman would have a real shot. I do notice, from Bennet e-mails I'm getting that he seems to be trying to build up support among Dems on some key issues as if he's finally noticed that he's really pissed a lot of Dems off and needs to do some repair work. It's as if he's only now getting busy building a portfolio of Dem positives to put in his ads in 2016. Sad to say, ad content is pretty much all most presidential year voters will know about the candidates so I wouldn't put too much stock in Bennet's or Coffman's actual performance over the past few years. In a Bennet/Coffman match I'd say they each have a credible shot at it, depending on their campaigns. If Coffman wants to remain in CD6 instead, I doubt he can be ousted. 

        • FrankUnderwood says:

          As long as Bennet's ad content consists of something more than scowling about reproductive rights……been there, done that, got the T-shirt.

          • BlueCat says:

            Amen. I keep imagining a clip or two from that video of boyishly grinning, Udall summiting another 14er looking like the ruggedly handsome western Senator or President straight of central casting and graciously giving credit to the team that helped him, clearly having a genuinely great time. It would have been nice if they'd thought to work a little of that Udall into his ads. The charming outdoorsy likeable one. And, yes, Colorado women like that kind of thing, too.

    • Davie says:

      Hahaha!  Nice try, Moddy!  You're the one with an endless supply of Shinola and the constant need to use it.

    • OrangeFree says:

      About the only thing you got right is that Coffman is a veteran. 

    • Duke Cox says:

      the expression is "polishing" turds,  Modster.

      As many as we have seen you try to clean up, I would have thought you knew that.

  4. FrankUnderwood says:

    It wasn't just the presidential race at the top of the ticket that helped Udall in '08. He had the good fortune to be running against an openly-extremist opponent with Bob Schaffer. In '14, he ran against a closeted extremist who denounced his previous support for personhood and masked his ass kissing of the Koch Brothers by being photographed in front of wind farms.

  5. A different dynamic applies in 2016, for sure – the "counter-balance". Voters who aren't really trusting of either party will sometimes counter their Presidential vote with down-ballot votes. This is pretty much the same demographic that would vote to protest Presidential policies in off-years. No…

    The real problem for Republicans is the one that they've used to their advantage in 2010 and 2014 – the problem of Democratic voter turnout being strongly biased toward Presidential election years.

  6. DenverMom says:

    I know very few people who strongly like Bennet.  He was awful as the Superintendent of Denver Public Schools, and alienated many parents and teachers with his arrogance and rudeness.  I will hold my nose and vote for him, hopeful that the Dems can retake the Senate.  I know many education activists who cannot bring themselves to vote for him.  He will have a tough race.

  7. caphilldenverdem says:

    We need a strong candidate in 2016 to finally beat Mike Coffman.  There is a lot to love about Morgan Carroll and a lot not to like.

    For five years she has had a no-work job with law firms that advertise heavily on TV.  She has had the  same kind of arrangement with Michael Sawaya and Bachus and Schanker  that scandal plagued New York Speaker Sheldon Silver had with a New York City Law firm.

    Morgan has demagogically and irresponsibly  compared Israel's fight against terrorism with fascism.

    Morgan Carroll cannot win in CD 6.  Morgan will lose by a wider margin than Andrew Romanoff.

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