UPDATE #4: 9NEWS’ Brandon Rittiman cuts to the chase, and, well…
— Brandon Rittiman (@BrandonRittiman) August 4, 2016
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?”
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.”
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]
UPDATE: AP’s Nick Riccardi:
— Nick Riccardi (@NickRiccardi) August 4, 2016
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:
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.