Coffman Takes Trump Triangulation To The Next Level

UPDATE #4: 9NEWS’ Brandon Rittiman cuts to the chase, and, well…

So there you go, folks. A big fat sack of “I’m gonna have it both ways.” Here’s the story:

“I don’t care for him much,” Coffman declares on-camera in the ad, which might lead a viewer to conclude that Coffman has decided to take a firm stance against Trump in the presidential race.

We followed up with Coffman on Thursday and found that’s not precisely the case. [Pols emphasis] Instead, Coffman is walking a fine line and saying that he’s undecided in the presidential race.

While the ad is intended to showcase a stance against the leader of his party, Coffman stopped short of disavowing Trump’s candidacy in a telephone interview with 9NEWS.

9NEWS: “Would you rule out supporting Donald Trump for president?”
COFFMAN: “No.”

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UPDATE #3: Huffington Post reporting, clear as mud:

Democrats, including Colorado state Senate Minority Leader Morgan Carroll, a challenger for Coffman’s House seat, have tried to tie him to Trump on policy. Some cite a spokeswoman’s comments in February that Coffman would “obviously” support a Republican nominee over Clinton or her primary opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). The spokeswoman, it should be noted, went on to say Coffman believed the Republican nominee would be Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

A different campaign spokeswoman, Cinamon Watson, told The Huffington Post earlier this week that Coffman has not endorsed the presidential candidate and “has voiced grave concern about Mr. Trump’s policies and his tone.”

Watson said Thursday that “Hillary Clinton is not an option” and that Coffman will not vote for her. She did not directly answer whether he has ruled out voting for Trump. He “is considering his options — like a lot of Americans,” she said in an email. [Pols emphasis]

Move over “Both Ways Bob,” it’s time for “Multiple Choice Mike.”

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UPDATE #2: As Chris Cillizza writes for “The Fix,” this is a desperate move by Coffman that probably won’t pay off in the end:

Coffman has almost certainly polled the district and found Trump’s image is in disastrous shape there.  Coffman’s only option — considering the swing nature of his district — is to get as far away as possible from Trump or run the risk of being dragged down with him.

Polling out in Pennsylvania and New Hampshire over the last 24 hours suggests that Coffman won’t be the last Republican to try to distance himself from Trump.  Sens. Pat Toomey (Pa.) and Kelly Ayotte (N.H.) trail their Democratic challengers by eight and ten points, respectively. If it looks like they will sink with Trump, they will try to cut him loose — without a second thought.

The bigger question is whether Coffman’s strategy will work. Past history suggests it probably won’t…

…The simple fact is that the top of the ticket matters a TON in downballot races.  If Trump loses Coffman’s district by eight or 10 points in the fall, it’s going to be very hard for Coffman to win — no matter what he says about The Donald in his ads. [Pols emphasis]

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UPDATE: AP’s Nick Riccardi:

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Under intensifying pressure to take a stand for or against controversial Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, Rep. Mike Coffman of Colorado’s swing Sixth Congressional District has released a new ad this morning, in which he declares he “doesn’t care much” for Trump:

 

Rep. Mike Coffman (R).

Rep. Mike Coffman (R).

Politico’s Andy Isenstadt reports:

The commercial, from GOP Rep. Mike Coffman of Colorado, represents the first time a House Republican has used explicitly anti-Trump messaging in paid advertising. It comes as many in the Republican Party — concerned about Trump’s impact on down-ballot races — are grappling with whether to take further measures to repudiate their presidential nominee after a string of controversies including an attack on a Gold Star family and his refusal to endorse House Speaker Paul Ryan in his primary…

The commercial, which is set to begin airing on Friday, is an unusual one: Rarely do incumbent members of Congress finance commercials in which they launch attacks on presidential nominees of their own party. But for Coffman, a fourth-term lawmaker who represents a suburban Denver district that is one of the most politically competitive in the country, the move may be one of necessity. As with many other imperiled Republicans, Democrats have been eager to tie Coffman to Trump’s candidacy.

Longtime Republican politician/operative Josh Penry opens the speculative door even further:

Josh Penry, a former Republican leader in the Colorado Legislature who is advising Coffman, said crafting a Trump-focused commercial was an obvious move, particularly at a time when voters from both parties are expressing discomfort with him. Coffman, Penry said, may take steps to further divorce himself from Trump, perhaps by voting for Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson… [Pols emphasis]

To be clear, Penry says Coffman “hasn’t decided” yet who to support, leaving the question right where Coffman wants it: ambiguous. Meanwhile, Coffman’s Democratic opponent and liberal allies are having none of it, as the Denver Post reports:

Democrat Morgan Carroll is challenging Coffman for his House seat. Thursday morning, her campaign issued a statement urging voters to “get the real facts behind Coffman’s desperate ad.”

Drew Godinich, Carroll for Colorado spokesman, said, “Mike Coffman is still voting for Donald Trump who denigrates women, people with disabilities, immigrants, and the military. If he wasn’t going to vote for this bully, he would have already said so. This desperate ad is definition Washington and the height of political double-speak – and it proves that Mike Coffman doesn’t have the moral conviction to denounce Trump’s candidacy.”

And this from Ian Silverii at ProgressNow Colorado:

“Mike Coffman is running scared and trying to paper over his past comments questioning President Obama’s citizenship, just like Trump,” said ProgressNow Colorado executive director Ian Silverii. “He’s trying to hide his hostility toward undocumented residents, just like Trump. And he’s trying to have it both ways on abortion, just like Trump. Two years ago, Coffman made an ad promoting Planned Parenthood, then went to Washington to defund them. Now, he and his consultants are scrambling to distance themselves from Trump, Coffman’s attempts to weasel away is just another classic Coffman cover-up.”

This ad is bound to get play as the first paid shot at Trump from another Republican, but if anything it reinforces the point Democrats are trying to drive home about Coffman “running scared”–from both his own record and Donald Trump as his party’s nominee. In the last few days there has been a significant upwelling of opposition to Trump within the GOP over Trump’s verbal sparring with the family of a dead American serviceman. Coffman appears happy to ride the wave of discontent, but fighting off questions about his own record while distancing himself from Trump is a very difficult prospect.

And obviously, if Coffman helps destroy the Republican coalition by endorsing a minor candidate, Democrats should celebrate. We’ll be watching closely to see if that develops beyond a smokescreen from Penry.

Make no mistake, Coffman doesn’t want to be triangulating off his own party’s presidential nominee. Just like all of his political reinventions since redistricting took away his hard-right conservative base, he’s doing this because he has no choice.

It’s a perilous gambit. And it may well come crashing down around him.

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42 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. bullshit!bullshit! says:

    I honestly want to know what psychotropic drug they've got Coffman on.

  2. Gadfly says:

    Wondering if this race is still a priority for the National Dems?  Did Senator Carroll speak at the Hillary rally yesterday? Was she invited?  Coffman may be showing once again why he has never lost an election.  Morgan Carroll has lots of energy and enthusiasm but will that be enough? 

  3. Republican 36 says:

    It boils down to this: Congressman Coffman is running away from his party's nominee for President. That won't sit well with Trump's avid supporters in CD-6. He is going to loose some of them in November and that means he has to pick-up votes from other segments of the political spectrum that have not voted for him in the past. That is a tall order. His strategy clearly indicates he is in trouble.

    Mr. Penry's comment that Coffman may vote for the Libertarian party candidate for president signals the hardcore Trump supporters in CD-6 that Coffman isn't interested in their votes and is willing to sacrifice their support because he presently doesn't have enough votes to win. Its one thing to cut loose one group, but its quite a different matter to then attract voters who haven't previously voted for him in this political environment.

    For those voters he is trying to attract he has to overcome the fact that Trump is his party's nominee and on the one hand does anyone really believe he won't vote for Trump and on the other, this is like playing on a baseball team. If the shortstop (Coffman) doesn't like the pitcher (Trump) is it really believable that Coffman won't play ball with Trump if they are both elected. For heaven's sake, they're on the same team.

    Running away from a party's nominee almost never works, especially in a swing district like CD-6. Congressman Coffman appears desperate.  

    • Civics101 says:

      Morgan Carroll seems to be running a stealth campaign so far.  That's not promising for someone who lacks name ID outside of her legislative district.  If Carroll is expecting to win by running on Clinton's coat tails, there aren't any.  The same is true for Trump.

      It might just be a smart move by the candidates, in this race, to focus on what they have done in the 6th CD and not the fortunes of their respective party's presidential nominees.  Coffman seems to have recognized that first.  Will Carroll?

       

      • Republican 36 says:

        I know nothing about Morgan Carroll's campaign. I do know this. In March 2016, Congressman Coffman's polls had him leading her by only 4 points and over 70% of the voters in CD-6 disapproved of Mr. Trump. 

        No doubt candidates need to discuss their record and what they intend to do if elected but that is beside the point. In presidential election years and in off year elections, candidates who run away from their party's president or presidential candidate tend to do very poorly on general election day. Its a natural tendency to get as far away from another candidate from your own party who is politically toxic, but at the presidential level that usually doesn't work very well because voters associate down ballot candidates with the top of the ticket, even when, like Mike Coffman, they try and disassociate themselves from the top of the ticket. With more and more voters today voting a straight ticket due to polarization, the chances Mike Coffman can pull this off are even less likely than in the past because the only voters he will influence are the Trump supporters who won’t vote for him in November because he abandoned their candidate.

        Congressman Coffman’s latest campaign ad looks more like a “Hail Mary” pass than a viable strategy to win the election.

        • Duke CoxDuke Cox says:

          Very insightful comment, R36. Thanks for that.

          This particular Coffman troll is articulate but not delivering a very well thought out message.

          Clearly, Coffman is in deep doodoo…his behavior would be entirely different otherwise.

          I do know this. The Democrats benefit this year by delivering, in Morgan Carroll (CD6) and Gail Schwartz (CD3), the two strongest congressional candidates they have fielded in a long time. I have been acquainted with them both for many years and will tell you here they have much in common. Both are experienced, vigorous, campaigners; honest as the day is long and will not be pushed around or bought..

          The fact they are both women is just a bonus.

          • MichaelBowmanMichaelBowman says:

            Every opportunity we have to remove old white men from their Congressional seat and replace them with a smart, competent woman (like Morgan and Gail) should be seized upon. 

  4. FrankUnderwood says:

    I can see him only going halfway and announcing that he's voting for Johnson-Weld – both of whom, BTW, are respected former Republicans. Not everyone call take the big leap like Richard Hanna and Meg Whitman and go all in with HRC. 

    • BlueCatBlueCat says:

      I think Coffman's and other Rs' problem in close races who are afraid of flat out saying that they won't vote for Trump but want voters appalled by Trump to like them for tsk tsk-ing Trump is that those voters can just vote Dem.  Look at what happened to so many Blue Dogs at the beginning of the Tea Party era. Why vote for a Dem who wants to be almost as Republican as a Republican when you can get the real thing by voting Republican?  Blue Dogs mostly went the way of New Coke. And, no, Zap, Bennet, like Obama, was never a Blue Dog. 

      It won't be easy to unseat a multiple incumbent. He's already won twice since CD6 became more competitive. But let's hope that many Rs, including Coffman, in CDs and running for Senate all over the country go the way of the old Blue Dogs with Trump topping the ticket. 

      Carroll, in addition to, not instead of, attacking him on policy  should hit him with his wanting to look like he's standing up to his party's nominee without having the guts to do so where it really counts.

      Tsk tsk-ing is weak tea. Dems in general should emphasize that they proudly stand with their nominee while Rs are running away from theirs. That they believe they are supporting a great choice for the country while Rs are hoping you won’t notice they’re supporting Trump even though they think so poorly of him they don’t want to be connected with him.

    • Craig says:

      Correction, former Republicans like me respect Johnson-Weld.  The current so-called "Republican" Party does not. 

      Others who can't vote for Trump can vote for Johnson-Weld if they are in non-swing states.  Be my guest.  But no matter what anyone says, Colorado is a swing state.  Those of us who might otherwise vote for Johnson-Weld simply can't take a chance.  We must vote for Hillary.  I remember hiding under desks in elementary school to protect us form the bomb, and remember years later learning how stupid and what a placebo that was.  No way am I letting that man become our President.

  5. davebarnesdavebarnes says:

    What do Moddy and Andrew have to say about traitorous Mike?

  6. ModeratusModeratus says:

    When Republicans don't bow to the party line, we respect them.

    When Democrats don't bow to the party line, we saw what happened to Bernie.

    • Diogenesdemar says:

      It's time for the party to unify. It has to unify from the top down, there's no other way.

      Trump is right to expect loyalty…

      – See more at: http://coloradopols.com/diary/85934/breaking-trump-wont-back-paul-ryan-john-mccain#sthash.5U9iYG6B.dpuf

      Looks like maybe someone has hacked your account and is now just posting all sorts of random horseshit gibberish here, Fluffy????

    • FrankUnderwood says:

      “When Democrats don’t bow to the party line, we saw what happened to Bernie”

      Bernie got to write much of the platform, he's in line to chair the Senate budget or HELP committee where he can push some of his proposal which HRC will sign, and he got the applause and respect of most of the delegates to the Dem Convention.

      And no one made him renounce his positions. He simply acknowledged that he was a lot closer to HRC than to Herr Drumpf on policy issues.

      Oh, and one of Bernie's most important issues – one on which I agree with him – is overturning Citizen's United. He's more likely to get a justice who will vote to do that appointed by HRC than by Drumpf.

       

    • BlueCatBlueCat says:

      What happened to Bernie, Moddy, was a long shot candidate nobody thought had a chance in hell in the first place came in such a strong second that he won victory after victory for his movement and agenda resulting in the winner's shifting significantly on many of his movement's core issues, the party adopting the most progressive platform in its history, Bernie getting an honored place at the convention, using it not just to endorse HRC and urge his supporters to follow suit but to make clear his sincerity by calling for HRC's nomination by acclamation.

      The result is that 91% of his supporters are following his lead and supporting the party's chosen candidate. Not only that but he's also pretty darned popular with most who supported HRC and who like the fact that their party has been pulled away from its drift too far to the right for most Dems' taste and back toward it's more traditional position in the corner of middle class working families.

      Bernie now has the opportunity to build on that success going forward with a President he endorses and quite possibly as a very powerful Senator in a Dem majority Senate with troops to call on to apply pressure as needed.  

      Let's see.  Who was number two to Trump? What did he get?  What role did he play at Trump's convention? How's that unity thing going?

      Poor Moddy!

  7. Gadfly says:

    An interesting discussion.  Morgan Carroll is potentially a top tier candidate.  Yet, if the national democrats actually thought she could win wouldn't she have been on stage with Hiillary yesterday?  Was Senator Carroll even invited?  

  8. DavieDavie says:

    Coffman's record, as reiterated by Ian Silverii, proves that Coffman doesn't disagree with the messages, just the disagreeable way Trump delivers them.

  9. itlduso says:

    This is great news for Morgan Carroll's campaign.  She is running a professional campaign that is not letting Coffman weasel out of his positions that are so out of sync with CD-6.  Joe Miklosi (who?) lost to Coffman by only two points in 2012 — a presidential election year with Romney/Ryan on the GOP ticket.

    Coffman will be taken down by a two punch knockout:  1) Morgan Carroll is a strong candidate with twelve years representing Aurora in the Legislature and, 2) Donald Trump is a total train wreck. 

    Farewell, Mikey.  We knew you too well.

  10. JohnInDenverJohnInDenver says:

    Maybe we can go the OTHER way, and ask if Mike Coffman is unabashedly endorsing the Republican Senate candidate? Perhaps that won't be quite so risky.

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