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. RegisteredRepublican says:

    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.          

  4. JeffcoBlueJeffcoBlue says:

    Though I have no doubt he’ll shake the Etch-a-Sketch as hard as he can.

    It amuses me that you implicitly acknowledge the statements were wrong, relying on voter forgetfulness to deal with the problem they create for Coffman’s future electability. I’ve always wanted to ask a Republican how that kind of rationale sits on your conscience, since you guys tend to use it a lot.

    And here you are to enlighten me! I’m all ears.

  5. BlueCat says:

    long memories.  Everything will be re-introduced in any future election.  

    Coffman has relegated himself to the ranks of those far right pols who can only win in their CDs. Before this last election most imagined him to be a common sense, non-extreme, conservative. That perception is history. He is now no longer viable for the high statewide offices of Senator or Governor. The march of demographics will make him even less so in 2014.

    The material for all the ads to remind everyone of his 2012 follies is voluminous and will be brought out with all the resources available to a high stakes, statewide campaign. The days of far righties winning Senate seats or the Governorship here in Colorado are over for the foreseeable future.  

  6. parsingreality says:

    Even with plenty of media video regurgitation, 2012 in 2014 will be “far, far away in another galaxy…”  Yes, the infamous “47%” video helped sink Mitt, but even with many other displays of deceitful, lying, backpedaling moments, he still got millions to vote for him.  In the end, it’s our guy vs. their guy.

    Having said that, and presuming Boring Udall doesn’t do something suddenly unboring and/or stupid, Coffman is carrying baggage in relative terms, for sure.  And Colorado, not just the home CD6 voters, are bluer and bluer.  Probably very few Hispanic or black voters in CD6; not so much for the state generally.

    I sure as hell someone can make hay with the fact that Mr. Conservative Small Government Mike has cashed government paychecks for decades.  

  7. lyjtrpcnf says:

    So its not me trying to deal away with a problem.  Rather I don’t think people are going to care about these supposed scandals (i.e. birther sympathy) in 2/4/6 years. And that lack of caring won’t be so much about forgetfulness – rather it will be that the issues of these “scandals” won’t be as important then.  

  8. lyjtrpcnf says:

    More talking about whether the issue itself will be salient in future elections.

    An example: take marijuana smoking.  In the past, if you admitted to it, it could sink you (like it sank Douglas Ginsburg in his SCOTUS confirmation process).  Today, its just not as big of a deal – Clinton and Obama admitted they smoked it and I think I recall Bush saying he even did cocaine (maybe I am mistaken there).  

  9. harrydobyharrydoby says:

    Yes, those will still be highly relevant in 2014, and Coffman will need to earn a gold medal in verbal gymnastics to make them go away.

  10. GalapagoLarryGalapagoLarry says:

    is, Coffman proved himself a deceitful, pandering, righty nutcase, blithering idiot, out of step with his new district and Colorado. And, I predict, he’ll be primaried by someone even more blithering.

  11. lyjtrpcnf says:

    I’ll dispute the birther comments will matter as much.  

  12. harrydobyharrydoby says:

    That Elbert County tape and his response to it will haunt him indefinitely.

    Obama will still be President in two years, so the racists will still be churning those waters.

    Besides, Coffman will have ample opportunities to demonstrate how out of step he is with his constituents over the next 2 years.

    Either he picks a fight with Udall that he can’t win, or a strong Democrat steps up in CD6 in 2014.  In either case, Coffman loses his seat.

  13. BlueCat says:

    the fringe end of the scale.  

    Here in DC6, Coffman was long assumed to be, by the average low info voter (that means the overwhelming majority), just a garden variety reasonable R with a nice military record.  He made clear to those paying much attention to the CD race, granted not all that many, that he was on the far right fringe.  

    In a senatorial or gubernatorial race even low info voters can’t escape the media barrage and Dems will make sure that everyone in Colorado is reminded, or made aware for the first time, that Coffman is no less extreme than the likes of a Tancredo or an Akin or, yes, a Rush Limbaugh.

    Today’s and tomorrow’s Colorado is no longer a place where that kind of candidate is going to be elected to the highest profile statewide office of Senator or Governor. It’s been some time now since anyone but a centrist Dem has won those races and there are simply no centrist Rs left in positions from which to launch a major race in the Colorado GOP machine.

    Udall and Hick, if he doesn’t change his mind about his ambitions, will both be re-elected. Coffman, if he challenges either, will lose.  

  14. GalapagoLarryGalapagoLarry says:

    You think his performance, especially the Channel 9 video, won’t be “remembered” in his 2014, ’16, ’18, ‘whatever bid? Maybe, if his opponent is Mother Theresa. Coffman is cooked.

  15. unnamed says:

    …was 2 points.  About 48% Coffman to 46% Miklosi.

  16. lyjtrpcnf says:

    I had no idea it was that close.  

  17. BlueCat says:

    will not quibble over 2 or 4, or take time for a new search. In any case, it’s the kind of number that means the first Dem Rep from CD6 is near.

  18. BlueCat says:

    in the redistricting.  

  19. unnamed says:

    Though the SOS website has  47.81% for Coffman and 45.77% for Miklosi in the final tally. With Coffman winning about 7,000 more votes than Miklosi. Miklosi cut into Coffman’s lead after election night.  

  20. BlueCat says:

    Maybe the sources I was seeing didn’t go all the way through to the bitter end though they both claimed 100% in. That may have been without the final word on provisional ballots etc.

    I never thought Miklosi could win this one but hoped for the kind of big improvement that gets enough serious targeting to get the job done next time. This is way more than enough to accomplish that, not just close but with the winner getting less than half.

    Anyone hearing rumors about prominent Dem pols with serious designs on the seat, not just people Dems would like to see going for it?

  21. BlueCat says:

    And if there are significant issues on which he could be considered centrist, do you think he could win a GOP primary for Senate or Gubernatorial candidate? And of course there’s the problem that no one (by general election standards for statewide office) has ever heard of him.  

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