Top Ten Stories of 2012 #4: “Birther Mike” Coffman Wins, But…

Between now and New Year’s Eve, Colorado Pols is recapping the top ten stories in Colorado politics from the 2012 election year.

One the one hand, Republican Rep. Mike Coffman deserves credit for having survived the toughest electoral challenge he has ever faced. Unfortunately, Coffman’s 2012 hard fought re-election effort revealed major weaknesses, unseen in prior contests, that are certain to negatively impact his prospects for higher office going forward.

That’s a nice way of saying that Coffman, despite keeping his seat in Congress, hurt his career very badly this year.

Never beloved by his own party, prior to 2012, Rep. Coffman was nonetheless widely considered to be a top Republican contender to take on Sen. Mark Udall in 2014–and had made little secret of future higher aspirations. After the redistricting process last year dramatically reshaped Coffman’s district from an ultra-safe Republican bastion into one of the more competitive and diverse districts in the nation, Coffman faced by far the greatest test yet of his electability.

Which he proceeded to fail miserably. Coffman showed unexpected political cluelessness early on by signing up as the Colorado chair of Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s laughably inept White House bid. Coffman unabashedly expressed his love for his predecessor Tom Tancredo on the campaign trail, in a district that would never elect Tancredo today. In May, video of Coffman emphatically telling Elbert County Republicans that President Barack Obama “is just not an American” sent Coffman into hiding–punctuated by a now-infamous video of Coffman, finally cornered by 9NEWS reporter Kyle Clark on camera outside a fundraiser, bizarrely repeating over and over again verbatim that he had “misspoke and apologized.”

That incident essentially put Coffman on the defensive for the rest of the campaign, forcing him to carefully manage public appearances, hiding behind heavy spending on well-produced, mostly positive ads. With internal polls continuing to show weakness, Coffman then went ruthlessly negative, tacitly and controversially linking his opponent to a child abduction in the news at the time. Coffman’s overmatched opponent, state Rep. Joe Miklosi, was never able to capitalize on the opportunity Coffman’s own actions and statements had created, but the race was still much closer than we would have predicted at the start of the year.

Coffman was hoping he could ride to an easy win in 2012, and proceed from there to a run for Senate against Udall in 2014. Now, despite his victory, it’s much less certain that he will be the GOP’s candidate against Udall. Moreover, in the new competitive CD-6, Coffman enters every election as a prime Democratic pickup opportunity. To an underreported but significant extent, Coffman’s political brand has been damaged in the long term by his 2012 campaign.

23 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. lyjtrpcnf says:

    I’m not sure I agree that Coffman’s statements will carry over into 2014 or 2016 to have a significant negative effect on him.

  2. BlueCat says:

    That reminded me that I never found out the final tally.  It was Coffman 49% Miklosi 45%. 4 points  as opposed to the usual 2 to 1 or 60/40 Dem loss.  This is  what happens before a  district turns. It means serious a targeting early on the next time around.

    It’s proabably winnable with the right candidate and the move up the priority list for targeting even if Coffman stays to run again. If Coffman decides not to run in favor of a Senate run, it goes from winnable to very winnable for a Dem.

    I’m convinced that what we saw with Perlmutter in CD7 after the first race in the competitive district went R can be repeated in CD6 in 2014. Tons of lead time next time around.

  3. I’ve always been amused how liberals — who must think that if they keep repeating a falsehood long enough, then it will eventually be true — keep insisting Mike Coffman is a birther.  Nowhere, at any time, did Coffman ever say Barack Obama was not born in Hawaii or was not a U.S. citizen.

    Close election in 2012?  No kidding!  Dems gerrymanded the district to their liking, yet Coffman took 2 of the 3 counties.  Besides, Coffman was not the incumbent to most voters in the 6th CD.  He will be in 2014.

    Potential challengers?  Notice how big name Democrats are not lining up to take on Coffman?  Morgan Carroll would rather pursue an open seat for Attorney General.  Romanoff cannot afford another political loss.  He needs a sure thing, like an open 6th CD seat.  No established Dem wants to risk a loss to a well-known ex-vet and tireless campaigner, who will very likely have a million dollars in his campaign warchest.          

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