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Coffman vs. Romanoff Rated Among Nation’s Top Three Races

endangeredcoffman 

Analysis from U.S. News and World Report's Lauren Fox:

The showdown between Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., and former speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives Andrew Romanoff is expected to play out in a demographically evolving district that once leaned Republican when Coffman was first elected in 2008, but because of a new wave of Latino constituents moving to the Denver suburb, is swaying in the Democrats' favor. President Barack Obama swept the district by 5 points in the 2012 election.

The rapid evolution of his district has forced Coffman to reevaluate his positions. The congressman entered the House of Representatives and pushed for legislation to nullify a requirement that polling stations provide ballots in more than just English. This year, however, Coffman stepped out and advocated for an immigration overhaul that would provide some kind of legal status for immigrants who entered the country illegally.

The two candidates have deep pockets with Coffman and Romanoff raising $1.6 million and $1.5 million respectively as of September 2013, and there is plenty of outside help.

With so much at stake, the race is expected to be about national issues with Republicans and Democrats both keeping a pulse on the fight. Already, conservative group Americans for Prosperity targeted the district with an ad thanking Coffman for voting against the Affordable Care Act, which has made headlines after the Obamacare website has been plagued with technical malfunctions.

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Abortion will likely take center stage in Coffman-Romanoff race

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

This article originally appeared in RhRealityCheck, a national blog focusing on "reproductive & sexual health and justice."

After last year’s election, the communications director of the anti-abortion group Personhood USA held up U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) as a candidate who “maintained his 100% pro-life position (without compromising or denying the personhood of children) and won.”

Now, political observers agree that Coffman is fighting for his political life against staunchly pro-choice Democrat Andrew Romanoff, the former speaker of the Colorado state house.

Abortion issues have played a key role in recent campaigns at all levels in Colorado, on the campaign trail and in political advertising, and they are likely to take center stage in this race, as the two candidates fight for the critical votes of women in Colorado’s Sixth Congressional District, which was re-drawn after the 2010 Census.

Coffman’s views on abortion aligned more closely with the makeup of his old district, which used to include large swaths of ultra-right counties near Colorado Springs, home of Focus on the Family. The seat was previously held by immigration extremist Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO).

So Coffman’s decision in 2008 and 2010 to endorse “personhood” ballot initiatives, which would have banned all abortion in the state, even in the case of rape and incest, as well as common forms of birth control, made some political sense. 

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GOP attacks Romanoff on immigration, even though Coffman is their candidate

(It's called "chutzpah" – promoted by Colorado Pols)

POLS UPDATE: This messaging could soon get very complicated for Rep. Coffman. The Hill reports that House Republicans may take up Mitt Romney's infamous "self-deportation plan" as part of their immigration package in an effort "to make a comprehensive overhaul acceptable to conservatives." This idea did more than anything to kill Romney's chances with Hispanic voters in 2012, and if it gains traction in the House, it would be a nightmare for Coffman.
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The National Journal reported last week that the National Republican Congressional Committee has released an ad attacking Democrat Andrew Romanoff for favoring "the strictest immigration laws in the nation" which Romanoff "passed as Speaker of the Colorado House." Romanoff is challenging Rep. Mike Coffman, who's seen as in danger of losing 6th Congressional District seat in Colorado.

The 2006 anti-immigration law cleared the Colorado Legislature with bi-partisan support, including the backing of Romanoff and Gov. Bill Owens.

But if Republicans attack Romanoff on immigration, reporters should obviously spotlight Coffman's own record on the issue. The Journal's Ben Terris did a pretty minimalist job of this, pointing out the following about Coffman:

When he first ran in 2008, one of his planks was to “deny amnesty and a path to citizenship to those who violate our laws. But this year, he had a change of heart and all of a sudden supports a path to citizenship."

Terris should have written more about Coffman and immigration. 

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Coffman, Romanoff Q1 Virtual Tie, Advantage Romanoff

UPDATE: FOX 31's story revised–did Andrew Romanoff in fact outraise Mike Coffman in only two months?

[R]oughly an hour after FOX31 Denver reported Coffman’s fundraising, Romanoff’s campaign called and said that its first quarter total is actually $513,977 — possibly just more than Coffman, who’s exact total has not been released.

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FOX 31's Eli Stokols:

Coffman, R-Aurora, raised $510,000 in the first quarter of 2013, his campaign announced Tuesday.

It’s a big number for a member of Congress to raise in the first quarter of the first year of a two-year campaign cycle — but it’s also just slightly more than brought in by his opponent, Democrat Andrew Romanoff, whose campaign announced last week a $500,000 first quarter haul.

Not only is incumbent Rep. Mike Coffman's Q1 total barely ahead of Democratic challenger Andrew Romanoff's, Romanoff had considerably less time to raise his half million, having launched his campaign at the beginning of February. Especially given concerns among Democratic insiders about Romanoff's eschewing of PAC funds (shared by us in this space), his strong performance out of the gate, which the campaign says was comprised mostly of small, local donations, bodes unexpectedly well for him in this race.

And if you're a Republican watching this race, it's definitely time to worry.

Rep. Mike Coffman Endorses Andrew Romanoff in CD-6

coffmanromanoff

The scene from today’s surprise announcement.

Rep. Mike Coffman Endorses Andrew Romanoff in CD-6

Monday, April 1, 2013

AURORA: In a stunning turn of events, incumbent GOP Rep. Mike Coffman announced this morning that he is endorsing his Democratic opponent, former Colorado Speaker of the House Andrew Romanoff, for election to Coffman’s CD-6 seat in 2014.

“Since narrowly surviving my re-election bid in 2012, I’ve come to realize that former House Speaker Andrew Romanoff already holds most of the positions on the major issues best suited to a representative of the Sixth Congressional District,” said Coffman. “As part of my shameless attempt to re-invent myself in accordance with my newly competitive and diverse constituency, I am endorsing Romanoff’s campaign to represent my district in Congress.”

Coffman clarified that is he not exiting the race for CD-6, and intends to win re-election to his congressional seat in 2014.

“Look, I’ve got to be careful here,” said a frank Rep. Coffman. “Last year, I almost lost this seat to a totally unknown pipsqueak. It was so much easier when I only had to answer to Tom Tancredo and the Castle Rock Trap and Skeet Club! I need time to make this reinvention thing stick, and the best way to buy that time is to sound like I agree with Democrats on everything. Of course I’m not really agreeing, so I have to be careful not to actually say anything concrete myself.”

“With that in mind, endorsing Romanoff until I can figure out how to thread this needle is the safest thing to do,” said Coffman. “Whenever you get a statement from Romanoff’s campaign, please add ‘Rep. Coffman agrees action needs to be taken.’ If said statement is calling for action not to be taken, please change my response accordingly.”

“Working together, we’re finally going to give this district the leadership it needs,” said Coffman.

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Coffman Goes From Hard-Right, To Softer-Right, To Every Which Way–And Then Out

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

After U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman won re-election in 2016, prevailing in a district carried by Hillary Clinton, even a liberal blog ColoradoPols wrote that the Republican’s “ability to survive so many very different electoral climates and the complete refashioning of his congressional district make another serious run at Coffman increasingly difficult to justify.”

Two years later, Coffman has been voted out, replaced by Democrat Jason Crow.

The difference this year is Trump.

Coffman’s increasingly desperate attempts to define himself as an anti-Trump Republican weren’t believed by voters who apparently saw him as a pawn in Trump’s GOP army. A pawn with a 96 percent pro-Trump voting record, as Democrats repeated throughout the campaign.

Actually, Coffman was more Trump-like during the first 18 years of his political career than he was when he was voted out today. He began migrating away from his hardest-hard-right social conservative stances after his congressional district was redrawn after the 2010 census.

Unlike some flip-flopping politicians, Coffman’s migration was achieved by adopting multiple nuanced positions on controversial issues–with variations emerging over years.

On abortion, for example, he went from proudly opposing all abortion, even for rape and incest, to withdrawing his support for a personhood abortion ban. Later, he voted for abortion ban exceptions, infuriating his personhood supporters.

He voted to defund Planned Parenthood multiple times and then put a Planned Parenthood logo in a campaign advertisement. And then, in interviews on conservative radio, he continued to attack the women’s health organization.

On immigration, his spectacular metamorphosis took him from calling the Dream Act a nightmare to embracing it, even though he blocked the country’s best shot at immigration reform when he opposed a comprehensive immigration bill, passed in 2014 with bipartisan support in the U.S. Senate. The bill died in the House, and Coffman went on to learn Spanish.

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Mike Coffman May Very Well Be Hosed in 2018

Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora)

We know what you’re going to say: You’ve heard it all before.

Politicos from both sides of the aisle have been predicting doom for incumbent Republican Rep. Mike Coffman since re-districting changed the makeup of CD-6 after the 2010 Census, yet Coffman has endured. Here at Colorado Pols, we’ve certainly been guilty of erroneously anticipating Coffman’s demise on more than one occasion. Indeed, we’ve been pessimistic about the odds of Democrat Jason Crow defeating Coffman in 2018 because we’ve learned that Coffman has an inexplicable way of maintaining support among Aurora-area voters.

But as much as recent history tells us to pump our brakes on Democratic hopes in CD-6, the numbers emerging from a national climate hostile to Republicans are becoming too striking to ignore. It doesn’t just look increasingly likely that Coffman might lose in 2018…it’s beginning to look as though it might be virtually impossible for Coffman to win re-election this time around.

According to Harry Enten of 538.com, Democrats should now be considered the favorites to win control of the House of Representatives in 2018 in a rising wave that even Coffman may not be able to overcome:

…the Democratic advantage in the FiveThirtyEight generic ballot aggregate is up to about 12 points, 49.6 percent to 37.4 percent. That average, like the CNN poll, also shows Republicans in worse shape right now than any other majority party at this point in the midterm cycle1 since at least the 1938 election…

…Their current advantage is larger than the lead Republicans had at this point in the 1994 cycle, the lead Democrats held at this point in the 2006 cycle or the lead Republicans had at this point in the 2010 cycle. Those were all years when the minority party won control of the House. And a 12 percentage point Democratic advantage in the national House vote come next November would likely be more than enough for the House to flip again. I’ve previously calculated that the Democrats need to win the national House vote by 5.5 to 8 points to win the House.

As Enten explains, 2018 looks to be a rough year for the 58 incumbents who aren’t sitting in seats with “a partisan lean of more than 12 points in favor of Republicans.” In 2012, Coffman narrowly avoided an upset loss to Democrat Joe Miklosi, winning re-election by a slim two-point margin (47.8% to 45.8%). Democrats thought they had the better candidate in 2014 with former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, but Coffman upped his margin of victory to nearly 9 points (51.9% to 43%). Democrat Morgan Carroll performed slightly better than Romanoff two years later, but Coffman still breezed to victory by more than 8 points (50.9% to 42.6%) — despite the fact that Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton outperformed Republican Donald Trump by 9 points in CD-6.

“Among GOP leaders, however, there is widespread concern heading into 2018. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said privately that both chambers could be lost in November.”
     – Politico (12/21/17) 

Congressional Republicans were already historically unpopular even before they unified in support of a tax plan that was the most overwhelmingly-despised piece of legislation in decades. Coffman has never faced a political climate like the one that is brewing in 2018; instead of adjusting his course, Coffman is leaning directly into the headwind.

When Coffman voted YES on the tax bill, he handed Democrats perhaps the most cogent opposition message the party has ever had in CD-6. In one vote, Coffman flushed away the pretend-moderate image he had so carefully crafted for years so that he could lash himself firmly to a sinking Republican ship. Coffman used to say that he didn’t support a partial repeal of Obamacare in any tax reform plan, but then he went and voted for the GOP tax debacle anyway. Now Coffman is even talking openly about backing significant cuts to Medicare and Social Security.

The ridiculous GOP tax plan is an unmistakable albatross around Republicans’ necks. Take a look at what former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum wrote about the political ramifications in a column for The Atlantic:

The Republican tax bill lands like a hammer on upper-income professionals in blue states. Highly compensated attorneys, doctors, accountants, and financial-service professionals will lose tens of thousands of dollars in deductions for their heavy state and local taxes and costly coastal mortgages, without getting much in return…

…States like California and New York desperately need a competitive Republican Party—especially at the state level—to challenge the lazy and often corrupt practices of local Democratic machines. This new tax law will have the opposite effect, wrecking whatever little remains of GOP strength in the states that motor American innovation and growth. It threatens to push New Jersey, Colorado, and Virginia into single-party blue rule as well, by painfully demonstrating that the party of Trump is not only obnoxious to their values but implacably hostile to their welfare. [Pols emphasis]

While Republicans slap each other on the back over the tax bill, new political warnings are brewing. Both Politico and the Washington Post reported on Thursday that numerous Republican strategists are warning President Trump that a mid-term bloodbath is coming. As Jonathan Martin writes for the New York Times:

Officials in both parties believe Democratic gains in the House, where Republicans enjoy a 24-seat majority, could reach as high as 40 seats if the political environment does not improve for the Republicans.

And, as of now, it only appears to be worsening.

So, yes, you’ve heard the stories about Coffman’s vulnerabilities before, but never quite like this.

A lot can change before the 2018 election, but if this current trajectory continues, it may not even be possible for Coffman to win re-election next November.

Top Ten Stories of 2016 #4: Coffman’s Trump Triangulation Triumph

Captain Ahab and Moby Dick.

Rep. Mike Coffman of Aurora is today one of the longest, if not the longest-serving elected politician in the state of Colorado. Rising through the ranks of the state legislature in the 1990s, then serving as Colorado’s Treasurer and Secretary of State before his election to Congress in 2008, Coffman is the epitome of a “career politician”–and on paper, he’s been ripe for a fall at many points in his long career.

But Coffman has survived, again and again, despite determined attempts to dislodge him from his seat in Congress. In 2011, Coffman’s congressional district was reshaped from a staunchly Republican safe seat formerly held by far-right Rep. Tom Tancredo into a diverse and competitive battleground. Democrats were gleeful at the prospect of claiming CD-6 and holding it easily for the coming decade.

Coffman dashed tentative Democratic hopes in 2012, as he squeaked to victory in President Barack Obama’s second election against a relatively unknown and underfunded Democratic opponent Joe Miklosi. The missed opportunity in 2012 was underscored in 2014, when in that Republican “wave year” Coffman trounced a much better-financed and organized opponent in former House Speaker Andrew Romanoff.

In 2015, Democratic hopes for this district soared with the entry of former Colorado Senate President Morgan Carroll into the 2016 race against Coffman–a longtime representative from Aurora with charisma and deep bonafide ties to the community. The national Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) rated the CD-6 race one of the very top Democratic pickup opportunities in the nation in 2016, and unlike previous attempts, national Democratic resources stayed in this race to the very end.

Going into 2016, Coffman’s handlers understood that they faced a potentially disastrous problem with the success of Donald Trump in the GOP presidential race. Trump’s alienating rhetoric was downright poisonous in a culturally diverse place like Aurora, and made it too easy to draw parallels from Trump to Coffman’s own long record of right-wing ugliness–like Coffman calling Social Security a “Ponzi scheme” and asserting that President Obama “is just not an American.” Trump’s hard line on immigration similarly cast Coffman’s unsteady reinvention on the issue since redistricting into unflattering relief.

Working in Coffman’s favor were two principal factors: first, Coffman’s reversal on immigration began before Trump came on the scene, in response to redistricting, which made it appear more credible. The second, perhaps most important factor, is Coffman’s top-notch re-election team–who worked overtime to schmooze with, persuade, and where necessary to bully the local press into accepting that Coffman’s protestations against both Trump and his own record were genuine.

The result, much like the Democrats’ frustration in nailing Cory Gardner on his multitude of falsehoods in 2014, is that Coffman succeeded in triangulating off the anger against Trump instead of succumbing to it. Media coverage of Coffman’s record and statements on Trump gave him the benefit of the doubt that his change of heart was genuine. Even fact checkers struck back at Democratic allegations about Coffman’s “Trumplike” record, declaring them false by celebrating his “new position” on the issues in question. In the end, voters saw enough of Coffman’s ad declaring without specifics that he “doesn’t care much” for Trump to believe it over all the Democratic ads insisting Coffman was just like Trump.

And in the same congressional district that supported Hillary Clinton and Michael Bennet by solid margins in 2016, Morgan Carroll lost just as badly as her predecessor. The disappointment over this loss among Colorado Democrats turned to outrage–though not surprise–just a few days after the election when Rep. Coffman declared, red Trump hat literally in hand, that he is “excited about the next two years and look[s] forward to working with the president.” With that statement, everything Coffman had done to put daylight between himself and Trump during the election, and all the obsequious press coverage that helped him, was revealed as fraudulent.

Today, it’s anybody’s guess whether Democrats will field a credible challenger to Coffman next election, but his ability to survive so many very different electoral climates and the complete refashioning of his congressional district make another serious run at Coffman increasingly difficult to justify. There remains a possibility that political upheaval caused by President Trump’s first two years could put Republicans on the defensive in time for 2018, more than the usual risks to the party in power in a midterm election.

But for now, “Teflon” Mike Coffman is a model of political survival to study.

Or, depending on your point of view, a cautionary tale.

¿Por qué? Coffman Oddly Declines Debate en Español

Rep. Mike Coffman (R), Sen. Morgan Carroll (D).

Rep. Mike Coffman (R), Sen. Morgan Carroll (D).

A press release from Morgan Carroll’s congressional campaign calls out Rep. Mike Coffman for something we didn’t think would be a problem–his declining to participate in a Spanish-language debate, something he hasn’t shied away from previously:

Yesterday, Donald Trump and Mike Coffman both put to rest any lingering questions about whether or not they have changed. Coffman fed the public a weak excuse for refusing to participate in a Spanish language debate only days AFTER bragging about debating in Spanish last cycle.

“Congressman Coffman paved the way for Donald Trump and now he is acting just like him,” said DCCC Spokesman Tyler Law. “His weak excuse for not participating in the only Spanish language debate further proves how out-of-touch he is with his diverse constituency…”

Here’s a snapshot of Mike Coffman over the last year:

1.    Coffman spoke to an anti-Muslim hate group

2.    Latino leaders blamed Coffman for Trump’s rise

3.    Coffman refused to denounce Donald Trump’s candidacy time and time and time again (he literally did it again this week)

4.    Coffman cited a “scheduling conflict” two months from now as the reason he can’t participate in Entravision’s Spanish language debate

So no, Mike Coffman has not genuinely changed and he is certainly not an example of how to broaden the Republican coalition. Just as Donald Trump misled people into thinking there would be a pivot, Coffman misled people into thinking he could change.

It’s of course possible that Coffman has a scheduling conflict that far in advance, but this is the kind of event he made a point of not missing in 2014 against Andrew Romanoff. This year, as Coffman walks a tightrope between triangulating off Donald Trump and holding together enough of Republican support to get re-elected, and with his predecessor Tom Tancredo blasting away at Coffman from the right as an opportunist with no convictions, it’s possible that the man who once told bilingual voters to “pull out a dictionary” doesn’t need any more compromising video clips in circulation.

Coffman and Carroll are set for three television debates in English, so we guess keep that dictionary handy.

Coffman tried and failed with the same immigration attacks last election

(Setting the record straight – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Mike Coffman.

Mike Coffman.

Reporters shouldn’t be fooled by Rep. Mike Coffman’s recycled attempts to paint his Democratic challanger Morgan Carroll as anti-immigrant. Coffman tried the same tactic in 2014 and failed.

The point needs to be made in light of the Coffman’s campaign tweet last week that Carroll “supported Tancredo’s immigration crackdown in the 2006 special session.”

Coffman tried to attack Coffman’s 2014 challenger Andrew Romanoff in the same way, and it failed, as exemplified in this Denver Post piece from a couple years ago.

During the summer of 2006, in his first term as state House speaker, Romanoff faced a critical decision: Have a broadly worded initiative appear on the November ballot that would strip state benefits and even some medical services from those in the country illegally — including children — or strike a legislative compromise.

He choose the latter option and staved off a late effort to revive the ballot initiative by spearheading a bill that pleased some hardliners and upset some in the Latino community…

Among the proponents of the ballot initiative that didn’t make it to voters was Coffman, the state treasurer at the time.

With Romanoff in 2006 was Carroll–and Republicans like the Gov. Bill Owens. With Coffman in 2006 was Tancredo. (Read more of this history here.)

The Post’s article from the last election goes on to explain that Coffman opposed (and continues to oppose) a 2013 bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill, passed by the U.S. Senate. Carroll supports this measure, including its path to citizenship. (In addition to this, Coffman is opposed to birthright citizenship, which allows children of undocumented immigrants born on U.S. soil to be citizens. Coffman is also against a provision in the Voting Rights Act that requires some jurisdictions to provide dual-language ballots.)

Coffman’s campaign acts as if Carroll’s 2006 stance and 2009 vote against in-state tuition for undocumented students are somehow equivalent to or worse than Coffman’s vast anti-immigrant record–despite the context of the 2006 special session and the fact that Carroll was a cosponsor of the ASSET bill when it passed in 2013. Carroll passed the ASSET bill.

Bottom line: Reporters saw through Coffman’s attacks against Romanoff on immigration in 2014. They shouldn’t be fooled by Coffman this time around either.

Coffman Takes Immigration History Revision Too Far

UPDATE: For good measure, here’s a clip of Mike Coffman praising Tom Tancredo during the latter’s run for governor in 2010:

Listen to the lavish praise from Coffman for Tancredo “standing up” to President Bush’s immigration reform attempts.

And ask yourself how this could possibly be the same man vilifying Democrats today by likening them to Tancredo.

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dreamactcoffmanIn 2014, GOP Rep. Mike Coffman, who once called the DREAM Act to protect immigrant students “a nightmare for the American people” and fought against immigration reform until his congressional district was redrawn to include a large immigrant population, defeated his Democratic opponent in part by audaciously claiming his own position on immigration to be more progressive than the Democrat in the race.

This year, Coffman doesn’t seem to be changing the playbook a bit against his current Democratic opponent, Sen. Morgan Carroll:

That’s in reference to Coffman’s predecessor Tom Tancredo, the nationally-famous anti-immigration firebrand who has recently criticized Coffman’s reinvention on the issue as contrived to win votes in his new district. This Tweet refers to a vote in 2009 by Sen. Carroll against legislation that would have created similar tuition status as the DREAM Act for undocumented high school graduates in Colorado.

Just one problem: in 2013, Sen. Carroll cosponsored the ASSET bill, a.k.a. “Colorado’s DREAM Act.” ASSET is now the law in Colorado thanks to Carroll’s support. Once you realize that, it’s obvious that Coffman’s campaign is playing the most cynical kind of game with the truth–the lie of omission.

And it gets better:

In 2006, as at least a few of our longtime readers will remember, Republicans proposed a harsh immigration crackdown ballot measure called “Defend Colorado Now.” Hoping to forestall that measure, Democrats in the Colorado legislature made the in-hindsight highly regrettable decision to convene a special session of the legislature to pass immigration restrictions that would make such a ballot measure “unnecessary.” The truth is, Tom Tancredo was one of the original backers of the Defend Colorado Now measure, and was opposed to the special session convened by Democrats to forestall it.

Folks, what side do you think Coffman was on? The Longmont Times-Call reported (article no longer online):

Illegal-immigration foes drew a crowd to the foot of the state Capitol on Thursday to launch their petition drive for a state ballot measure that would deny government services to anyone who’s not in this country legally…

The rally began with state Treasurer Mike Coffman, a Republican candidate for secretary of state, leading the participants in the pledge of allegiance. [Pols emphasis]

In retrospect, both the 2006 Defend Colorado Now measure and the legislative session convened to counter it were ill-advised. Democrats have been taking their lumps over that mistake since 2006. But not only was Morgan Carroll working against Tancredo’s goals in 2006, at that same moment, Mike Coffman was the one standing with Tom Tancredo.

The real story behind today’s attacks on Carroll from Coffman’s campaign is one of such eye-popping hypocrisy and outright falsehoods that we’re legitimately surprised Coffman was willing to go there yet again. On the other hand, this is the perfect example of the kind of blatant disregard for the truth Coffman has repeatedly demonstrated against his Democratic opponents since redistricting.

For all the deference Coffman gets from the media over his wholesale flip-flops on the issues, with this latest we think Coffman may finally have taken it too far. Everyone who was there in 2006 knows the truth about what Coffman said and did then. It’s not a question of interpretation. It’s not a “misstatement.”

It’s a lie. And it must not go unchallenged.

The Weekend Mike Coffman’s Luck Ran Out

Still from Rep. Mike Coffman's 2014 ad using Planned Parenthood's logo.

Still from Rep. Mike Coffman’s 2014 ad using Planned Parenthood’s logo.

Colorado’s most vulnerable Republican incumbent in this crazy 2016 election season, Rep. Mike Coffman of Aurora, is without question our state’s greatest political survivalist. Few politicians in our state’s history have had their political constituencies as dramatically reshaped out from under them as Coffman, who was originally elected in 2008 to succeed the hard-right anti-immigrant firebrand Rep. Tom Tancredo. After several years representing Tancredo’s accommodating staunch conservative Republican constituents, Coffman’s congressional district was redrawn to include the highly diverse suburban city of Aurora, and went from an ultra-safe Republican seat to one of the nation’s most competitive.

Coffman’s up-to-now successful ability to re-invent his political image in wholesale terms, winning re-election twice in his new diverse and competitive battleground, stands today as perhaps the biggest disappointment for Colorado Democrats in the twelve years they have enjoyed resurgent control in this state. In 2012, Coffman faced an underfunded challenger who came nonetheless unexpectedly close to unseating him. In 2014, Coffman actually ran to the left of his Democratic opponent Andrew Romanoff on certain issues like immigration, and audaciously used Planned Parenthood’s logo in positive ads despite his repeated votes over the years to cut off the organization’s funding.

And Coffman won. Coffman just kept winning, as Democrats fumed over what they viewed as blatant political opportunism and shameless flip-flopping on formerly core issues for pure political survival. In 2014, the successful U.S. Senate campaign of “Con Man Cory” Gardner, along with Coffman, created something like real despair for Democratic strategists that factual positions, statements, and other such “reality based” lines of attack were losing their efficacy in politics. Here were politicians who lied right through the fact-checking and in the end did not pay a price.

This weekend, though, something happened that we may look back on as the moment Coffman’s audacious political re-invention finally broke down. Two major stories, one in the New York Times and the second in today’s Denver Post, take a second look at Coffman’s changing politics–and in doing so, de-legitimize the whole effort with surprising ease. Here’s the New York Times’ Emmarie Huetemann, with her devastating headline “A Congressman Slighted Immigrants, Then Embraced Them. Now He Runs From Trump.”

He started learning Spanish in 2013, he said, shortly after being re-elected to a redistricted House seat whose constituents bore little resemblance to the far more conservative ones who sent him to Congress in 2008. Mr. Coffman, a retired Marine who co-sponsored a bill to make English the nation’s official language and suggested that Hispanic voters who could not understand their ballots should “pull out a dictionary,” suddenly represented the most diverse district in Colorado…

Mr. Coffman’s detractors see him as another pandering politician, willing to do anything to get re-elected. Another of Mr. Coffman’s ads — in which a handful of people of different ages and ethnicities say he is “not like other Republicans” but “one of us” — draws bitter laughter at Ms. Carroll’s campaign office.

“He didn’t find religion until he got redistricted,” said Tim Sandos, a former Denver city councilman who is now the chief executive of the National Hispanic Voter Educational Foundation. “And now all of a sudden he’s ‘one of us.’” [Pols emphasis]

Tom Tancredo, Mike Coffman.

Tom Tancredo, Mike Coffman.

Meanwhile, over Denver Post, reporter Joey Bunch gives Coffman’s long and changing record exactly what Coffman doesn’t want: a thorough and impartial examination.

Opponents concede the congressman has distanced himself from Trump, the candidate, but contend he cannot credibly deny his history of Trump-like statements and Trump-like positions.

The Denver Post analyzed the most common talking points Democrats use to link Coffman and Trump. The Post found that most have some basis in fact, but they lack context to give a better understanding of the issues.

From there, readers are treated to a pretty good summary of what swing voters in Coffman’s district will consider the worst things Coffman has said and done, like claiming President Barack Obama “is not an American” and saying the DREAM Act for undocumented students “will be a nightmare for the American people.” In each case Bunch dutifully includes Coffman’s apology, subsequent policy change, or other “context” as applicable. One item missing from Bunch’s list is the above mentioned use of Planned Parenthood’s logo in Coffman’s campaign ads, which has merited its own story on other occasions.

The context doesn’t help, folks. The aggregate weight of all of Coffman’s reinventions in one place is simply too much. Taking all of Coffman’s “changes of heart” in the only context that matters–Coffman’s quest for political survival–makes the whole exercise look fraudulent. The fact is that none of this is new information, and this is a case that Coffman’s opponents could have made in 2014 with most of the same material. But it’s impossible to read these long form examinations of Coffman’s shifting positions and not conclude that, as Tancredo himself recently said of Coffman, “the only thing authentic about him is his passionate desire to keep that House Member pin on his lapel.”

The difference may be that in this calamitous year for Republicans, Coffman’s reinvention just stands out more. Donald Trump has created a political world of black and white choices for Republicans — a world where it’s next to impossible to be a Republican in the gray area. As we’ve said before, you cannot be publicly ambivalent about Trump, and the GOP Presidential nominee’s line-in-the-sand approach provides little room to maneuver for Republicans such as Coffman.

Coffman’s 2016 campaign is fairly similar to what he’s always done; but by changing the context of this election, Trump is making Coffman’s strategy untenable. There was another way for Coffman, but he missed his exit, and after years of watching Coffman brashly outmaneuver his fate for two election cycles, this feels different to us.

It feels like the beginning of the end.

Top Ten Stories of 2015 #9: Coffman Stumbles, Carroll Rises in CO-6

Rep. Mike Coffman (R), Sen. Morgan Carroll (D).

Rep. Mike Coffman (R) faces a tough re-election challenge in state Sen. Morgan Carroll (D) .

As we wrap up the political happenings of 2015, we can glance ahead to this time next year and make a prediction: Whatever happens in Congressional District 6 will end up as one of the Top 10 stories of 2016. And if next year continues along the same trend line as 2015, the outcome of CD-6 will easily crack the Top 3.

It is quite possible that 2016 will be the end of the line for Mike Coffman after three decades as an elected official; if so we’ll look back on 2015 as the year when everything started to go wrong for the four-term Aurora Congressman.

At this time last year, Coffman was basking in the glow of a November beatdown of Democratic challenger Andrew Romanoff. National pundits had agreed that CD-6 was a “toss-up” race in 2014, but then Coffman went ahead and thrashed Romanoff 52-43 in one of the bigger political surprises in Colorado. Buoyed by such a dominating re-election victory, Coffman entered 2015 as the top Republican recruit for the 2016 U.S. Senate race. Republicans were licking their respective chops over the idea of taking out incumbent Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet – just one cycle after Republican Cory Gardner defeated Sen. Mark Udall – and they believed that Coffman was the man to make it happen. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell personally wooed Coffman on multiple occasions, including a much-publicized breakfast meeting that was intended to seal the deal once and for all.

Coffman ultimately decided against running for Senate in 2016, and in retrospect, Republicans may be glad that he declined. A year that began with such promise for Coffman devolved quickly, and he now heads into another re-election effort with all the momentum of a two-legged turtle.

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Vulnerable Mike Coffman Lays Low As Challenge Looms

Mike and Cynthia Coffman. And dog.

Mike and Cynthia Coffman. And dog.

For the last two weeks, a member of the Coffman family has dominated political headlines in Colorado, though not the Coffman most people think of. When we last left off with GOP Rep. Mike Coffman of Aurora, he was vowing to repeal Obamacare in the wake of last week’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling, and hurrying to pivot to “jobs and the economy” in response to the court’s ruling in favor of same-sex marriage equality–but still not getting anything like the press his embattled wife was receiving.

Which we fully assume he considers to be a good thing.

Just before the “Coffmangate” blackmail scandal involving Rep. Coffman’s spouse Attorney General Cynthia Coffman broke open in the middle of June, Mike Coffman’s remarks on a radio talk show comparing the Department of Veterans Affairs to the Middle Eastern terrorist group ISIS made the rounds with no small degree of controversy. But since then, we’ve seen very little in the way of earned media for Rep. Coffman beyond those brief statements, regarding either the overbudget Aurora VA hospital has had spent so much time grandstanding on as an election issue, or anything else.

And naturally, he’s had nothing to say about his spouse’s political implosion.

But the world moves on: just today, Mike Coffman’s name was mentioned again as one of the most competitive races in the Mountain West for 2016. Roll Call’s Rothenblog:

Coffman’s decision to seek re-election puts a wrench into Democratic plans to take over his open seat. But that doesn’t mean the party will give him a free pass. President Barack Obama won the 6th by 6 points in 2012 and 9 points in 2008, but Coffman easily dispatched former state Speaker Andrew Romanoff, 52-43 percent, in 2014. State Sen. Morgan Carroll has been mentioned on the Democratic side but the field is still fluid. As far out of reach as this race seems for Democrats, it’s probably the type of district the party has to win in order to get the majority in 2016…

After Andrew Romanoff’s unexpected shellacking at the polls in 2014, the second win for Rep. Coffman over resurgent Democratic opponents since his congressional district was remade into a closely divided battleground in 2011, conventional wisdom might have declared him safe. But the CD-6 electorate in 2014 seems to have almost uniquely punished Romanoff for running an uninspiring centrist campaign, sending him to defeat by a greater margin than overlapping Democratic candidates in other races. In 2012, low-budget underdog challenger Joe Miklosi came far closer to defeating Coffman than Romanoff did, a result that demonstrates the potential in this district for a candidate who can turn out the Democratic vote–or at least not demotivate base Democrats like Romanoff did with his milquetoast “balance the budget” message. And above all, the difference in the electorate between the 2012 presidential elections and last year’s midterms gives Democrats hope that 2016 may be the year Rep. Coffman’s number comes up.

Bottom line: Mike Coffman has proven a resilient incumbent, able to reinvent himself in dramatic fashion to appeal to a very different electorate than the hard-right conservative voters who originally elected him to Congress. But he has also benefited circumstantially from weak opponents, and a strong “Republican wave” in 2014. A combination of his starkly opposed past positions on the issues, continuing predilection for embarrassing verbal diarrhea like the ISIS/VA crack or his declaration in 2012 that President Barack Obama “is just not an American,” and the growing possibility of the right challenger in the right year, means that no matter how handily he was re-elected in the last election, Rep. Coffman remains vulnerable in the next one.

That perennial vulnerability is why Coffman chose not to run for the U.S. Senate next year, with his negatives potentially attracting much more attention in that marquee statewide race. His best career option, as we long expected he would decide, was to fight to hold CD-6–considered vital to either side’s aspirations for control of Congress.

The problem is, in 2016 Democrats may finally have the right combination of circumstances and human capital to take Coffman out.

Pay No Attention To Mike Coffman’s Buddy Ben Carson

coffmannotanamericanThe Denver Post’s Lynn Bartels reported Friday afternoon:

Aurora Congressman Mike Coffman paid Republican Ben Carson $15,000 to speak at a fundraiser, according to a Wall Street Journal story reporting that the GOP presidential candidate and his wife earned between $8.9 million and $27 million in a recent 16-month period…

Democrats thought that they had redrawn the seat after the 2010 census to make it competitive enough to kick out the Republican but Coffman has moderated his views on immigration reform and other issues.

The DCCC says the speech is another reason to be skeptical of the shift.

“After years of running to the right, embracing the birther movement and paying the extremely controversial Ben Carson thousands of dollars, Mike Coffman has been attempting a fake moderate rebrand to keep his seat. Voters will see right through that,” said Tyler Law, press secretary for the Mountain West Region of the DCCC.

But as Rep. Mike Coffman’s spokesman Tyler Sandberg was quick to respond, zing!

Responded Coffman spokesman Tyler Sandberg: “They said that all last cycle and their No. 1 recruit in the country got steamrolled by 9 points.”

The swing between a Democratic-leaning electorate in presidential election years and a more conservative electorate in midterm elections is a well-established phenomenon all over the country, and can be easily seen in the very different election results here in 2012 versus 2014–or for that matter, 2008 versus 2010. In 2012, Coffman barely survived against an underfunded Democratic opponent, which raised hopes that Coffman would be ousted in 2014. But a strong national “GOP wave” combined with a surprisingly weak Democratic candidate in the form of uninspiring technocrat Andrew Romanoff allowed Coffman to outperform other Republicans substantially within the highly competitive Sixth District.

In 2016, the game will be very different for number of reasons, and Democrats should not be deterred by previous results in terms of how to go after Coffman. The 2016 electorate will be more receptive to Democratic hits on Coffman than they were last year, and that means crazy stuff that Ben Carson has said over the years–that Obamacare is the “worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery,” even worse than 9/11–will be more of a liability to Coffman than last year.

And that’s before Carson goes nuts on the presidential campaign trail, which is more or less guaranteed.