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.