Littwin: After latest round of elections, which CO Republican should be the most worried?

Kabul, Afghanistan – International Security Assistance Force commander Gen. John R. Allen, U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan C. Crocker, conclude a briefing for U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Armed Services members on current operations, Nov.21, at ISAF Headquarters. Reps. Rob Wittman of Virginia, Mike Coffman of Colorado, Larry Kissell of North Carolina, and Mike Quigley of Illinois, met with the ISAF commander in Kabul during their visit to Afghanistan. (U.S. Army Photo/Master Sgt. Kap Kim) (released)

We didn’t have any races in Colorado in the latest round of pre-midterm elections, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t feel the ripples of another bad Republican night. In fact, the most critical political question now is which of the state’s Republicans should be most worried come Election Day in November.

I’d say it’s a toss-up among Mike Coffman in the 6th CD, Walker Stapleton in the governor’s race and any state senator in a swingish district.

It’s an off-year election, which is generally problematic for the party that holds the White House. And in this off-year election, it’s not just any Republican president, it’s Donald Trump, who, I think I can say without contradiction, is unlike any president belonging to any party in any part of the universe.

If the expected blue wave actually happens — and if there’s anything I learned from Trump’s victory, it’s to be slightly more cautious on the prediction front — it would obviously affect U.S. House races. Since the Civil War — and, kids, you can do the Google if you’re fuzzy on the dates — the presidential party has lost an average of 32 House seats in midterm elections.

But how deep would it go? A blue wave would likely mean a major swing in governors’ races, where Republicans hold a huge majority. And Democrats are busily investing important money in state legislative races, where Republicans had feasted during the Obama years. That makes 2018 the kind of year (like almost all others) where people say we’re facing the most important election of our lives. But this is one where some people might actually mean it. And most of those people would be Democrats.

If Mike Coffman were a normal Republican candidate — and not a bonafide escape artist who not only beats tough opponents in thought-to-be-tossup races, but beats them handily — I’d say he should be the most worried. But underestimating Coffman, as Democrats have learned, is a fool’s game. 

In advance of this race, he has done his best to separate himself from Trump on some key issues, particularly immigration reform and DACA kids, but it’s hard to escape the fact that a Republican House is Trump’s House and the Republican Party, as constituted, is Trump’s Republican Party and, in any case, Coffman votes with that party and president overwhelmingly.

The news out of Ohio, in CD 12, is that the Republican candidate seems to have squeaked by in a special election by less than a percentage point. That would be good news for Republicans if it weren’t a district that Republicans have held since 1982 and have lost only once since the Depression. And it would be good news if Donald Trump hadn’t carried the district by 11 points. And it would be good news if there weren’t a distinct trend line here, in what is being called the rural/suburban divide. The rurals are sticking with Trump, the suburbans not so much. And then there’s the enthusiasm gap. What’s not to worry about?

According to the numbers crunched by, since Donald Trump first stepped into the Oval Office, special election House races have shown a 16-point Democratic lean. By any count, that’s a lot of leaning. According to the Cook Political Report, there are 66 at-risk Republican House seats and five Democratic seats at risk in November. That’s a lot of risking. And Coffman’s seat is once again rated a toss-up.

Yes, Trump just tweeted that he’s expecting a red wave, and, I’m sure, somewhere in the background, Mike Pence is nodding in agreement. But is there anyone else who agrees?  The reliably right-wing Wall Street Journal editorial page calls such thinking “an illusion.” I’d go with delusion, but I guess that’s why I don’t write for the Journal.

And so, you get this from Sen. Lindsey Graham, a sometimes Trump ally and a sometimes Trump critic: “There’s a real likelihood that (Democrats) not only win the House, but they win it by 10 or 12 more seats than they need.”

He adds, “If I was a House guy in an R +10 or less seat, I’d be getting on the phone and raising money and putting a sign on my dog.”

I don’t know if Coffman has a dog. I do know that his district is Democratic leaning, that Hillary Clinton carried it by nine points. And I know that, in the last two elections, both considered toss-ups going in, Coffman beat Morgan Carroll (2016) by nine points and Andrew Romanoff (2014) by eight points.

By my math, that’s two big wins for Coffman, but two wins under Graham’s +10, and if a blue wave is coming, it may take more than Spanish lessons (you remember Coffman’s classic Spanish-language debate with Spanish-fluent Romanoff) to pull out another highly contested race, this time against Jason Crow.

Democrats need to swing 23 seats in order to win the majority in the House. Most of the smart handicappers make them at least a slight favorite. Some have even suggested the possibility of a 50-seat swing. There can be no 50-seat swing that Coffman survives. It’s hard to see how he could survive Graham’s 35-seat scenario.

The problem for Coffman, and for every Republican in a swing district in Colorado, is Trump, who lost to Clinton by five points here. And one of the biggest problems with Trump is that he doesn’t believe he’s a problem. Trump’s plan for October and November is to be on the campaign trail every day he’s not at one of his golf courses. 

Republicans have enough trouble winning the governor’s seat in Colorado — only Bill Owens in the last 40-plus years — without Trump. They’re hoping that Jared Polis is seen as too liberal for Colorado, but I’m wondering if the election will be about anything but Trump. You’ve seen Stapleton, who more than embraced Trump during the primary, trying to dodge the question of whether he wants Trump to campaign for him. He finally had to say he would, while not-so-secretly hoping Trump would stay away. 

Maybe, if Stapleton is lucky, Republicans will send Ivanka as the Trumpian surrogate who can say she thinks locking children in cages is a bad idea. But if Stapleton is out there talking constantly about so-called “sanctuary cities” — as he almost certainly will be — he’ll basically be bringing Trump’s Mexicans-as-rapists-and-murderers bigotry with him. 

And since many millions of dollars will be spent on television ads by both sides in the governor’s race, immigration will be constantly on, and in, the air. It’s just one more reason Coffman, a five-term incumbent, has to be worried. As he should be.

Photo credit: ResoluteSupportMedia, Creative Commons, Flickr. 


  1. Your predictions of Coffman and Stapleton are correct. Perhaps it is Stapleton who is treading water in dangerous Trump swamp water as he and his supporters (including the state GOP chairman) are spending money and time attacking Jared Polis. Haven’t seen one TV ad providing a profile of Stapleton and what he’d do for Coloradans. No, he and the GOP and outside groups are running scared attacking Polis. The KKK rally in DC ain’t gonna help Stapleton!

  2. “We didn’t have any races in Colorado in the latest round of pre-midterm elections, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t feel the ripples of another bad Republican night.”

    I find your premise faulty. The GOP won the most hotly contested–and the most outside money–race, Ohio’s congressional District 12. Further, the far-left’s socialist star Ocasio-Cortez strikes out: all of her endorsed candidates lost Tuesday primaries. And the latest ‘Rueters’ and ‘Economist’ polls have the Democrat lead in generic poll dropping to 2% and 3%, respectively, when in fact the opposition party should be at least ten points ahead in a mid-term election.

    Who, again, had the bad night, Mike?

    Re: Colorado. Yeah, we’ve had an awful lot of Californians move here, fleeing that s**thole and voting for the same, idiotic communists that made their home state such a s**thole. I don’t doubt that the a communist like Polis could win.

    God save us. Because the reactionary, left-wing Democrats certainly won’t.

  3. Balderson is ahead by less than 1% and appears to be the winner. In a district that went for a Republican incumbent by 30% in 2016, supported Trump by 11%, and has a long history of Republican control and a clear gerrymandered design for Republican control.

    In a district that Gov. Kasich, part of that long line of control, said “This district is so Republican, there should never even have been an election here. And it was so close and — in one of the counties that’s so solidly Republican — where a Republican would normally win by 70 percent, it broke basically 50-50.”

    State Senator Balderson was named to fill out a term in the State Senate, and in 2016, ran unopposed for re-election in a district fully within the Congressional district. County Recorder Danny O’Connor was elected as Recorder for a county that is only partially in the District.

    In a district with few unemployment problems or other personally experienced issues ascribed to political discontent.

    In a campaign with all Republican sources outspending Democrats (different estimates I’ve seen say 3 to 1 and up to 5 to 1). In a district contest that drew personal campaigning from a President, Vice-President, Presidential son, Co-chair of the RNC, Ohio’s Republican Senator, and endorsements from the Governor (a former seat holder).

    At a time when many of the OSU students and other smaller schools in the District were not yet in place.

    With all those advantages, Balderson ekes out a win by fewer than 1600 votes, with absentees and provisional votes yet to be counted.

    Yep, a good night for the Republicans.

  4. Yes, most Republicans are corrupt, but so are most Democrats. A more accurate statement would be that “Politicians are corrupt” – that is even more simple and also true.

  5. Elections have consequences

    “Hiding news that doesn’t fit an ideological or a partisan agenda is perhaps the worst form of media bias. And it’s one more reason the public holds the press is such low esteem.” – Investor’s Business Daily

    “(Mr. Trump) won’t be president. He was sliding in the polls before the video, and the video now means that he has no way to climb back. Which independent voter, which suburban woman, which Main Street Republican on the fence is going to vote for Trump now?” – Mike Littwin

    Magical thinking: The belief that one’s own thoughts, wishes, or desires can influence the external world. It is common in very young children. – Radiotherapy

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    After reminding readers that “(Rep. Mike) Coffman beat Morgan Carroll (2016) by nine points and Andrew Romanoff (2014) by eight points”, Mr. Littwin makes a rather unconvincing case that this time….yes, this time….. things will be different and Rep. Coffman should really, really be worried. He ends his column with this stern warning: “….Coffman, a five-term incumbent, has to be worried. As he should be.”

    Mr. Littwin travels quite a distance in just a few paragraphs: From reporting Rep. Coffman’s resounding victories in the last two Congressional elections to sharing his razor-sharp political insight that this time Rep. Coffman “has to be worried”. He’s able to overcome this apparent contradiction by embracing Republican Senator Lindsey Graham’s warning, “If I was a House guy in an R +10 or less seat, I’d be getting on the phone and raising money and putting a sign on my dog.”

    For Mr. Littwin to enthusiastically endorse any Republican’s view on anything is, by itself, remarkable but even more remarkable is that in January Mr. Littwin accused the very same Senator Graham of “sucking up to Trump”. From Trump suck-up to election guru in seven months! That’s not only quite a distance to travel but yet another apparent contradiction.

    It’s also informative to note that in 2014 Mr. Littwin described Andrew Romanoff as, “ yes, the Dems’ maybe last and certainly best chance to win the seat.” and then in July, 2015 Mr. Littwin said “If Coffman wins this time, against (former state Senate president Morgan Carroll) a well-funded, well-known candidate in a presidential-cycle year, he might well hold onto the seat forever.”

    Rep. Coffman did, of course, defeat both Romanoff and Carroll and yet, incredibly, Mr. Littwin still feels it necessary to warn the man he predicted would “hold onto his seat forever” about……Jason Crow. And if you said Jason “who?” you’re not alone. admits that Crow “suffers from a lack of name recognition” and says this, “Crow will have to be especially wary of the relatively high number of undecideds (16 percent), a figure that could favor an entrenched incumbent with higher name recognition, like Coffman”

    The Colorado Independent doesn’t worry about the growing distance between Mr. Littwin and the accuracy of his “predictions” (aka WAGs) as long as he continues to predict victories for progressives. That’s why Mr. Littwin can avoid explaining how Hillary Clinton lost to President Trump a man he described as “a demagogue, a xenophobe, a misogynist, a bigot, a sexist, an authoritarian, a boor, a crypto-fascist and the least-prepared person ever to be nominated by a major party.”

    Bottom line: If you believe recognizing and explaining contradictions is the touchstone of a good columnist, look elsewhere. But if you value mindless partisanship above all, take off your shoes and stay awhile.

    November 08, 2016

    “’Cause I don’t have no use
    For what you loosely call the truth” – Tina Turner

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