Littwin: Can Coffman, the escape artist, still break free when new poll shows him 11 points down?

I have no way to judge the accuracy of The New York Times Upshot/Siena College poll of Colorado’s 6th Congressional District race. But I think I have a pretty good read on the reaction. If you saw the horror movie, “Get Out,” it’s like the hypnosis scene when Missy tells a paralyzed Chris, “Now you’re in the sunken place.”

What I mean is, if this poll is even close to being accurate, Mike Coffman and Colorado Republicans could be sinking fast.

I don’t know if you watched any of the live-action poll, which you could follow in real time on The Times site. It was, to put it mildly, a strange experience. For one thing, It took nearly 27,000 calls to get 500 people to respond, and you can’t help but wonder if the other 26,000-plus would have agreed with the 500. But almost from the start, the numbers held the same bad news for Coffman, the five-term incumbent and well-known escape artist.

When the polling was done, Coffman was trailing upstart challenger Jason Crow by 11 points, 51-40. And if that isn’t enough to unnerve the Colorado GOP, there’s this: Donald Trump’s approval rating in the district is at a lowly 37 percent, his disapproval at 59. One more: When asked whether they prefer Democrats or Republicans to control the U.S. House, the respondents went 54-40 for Democrats.

These are not swing-district-type numbers. These are numbers you’d expect out of Boulder. Or somewhere in California.

But for Trump, the CD-6 number is not so far out of line with some of the latest national polls, in which Trump’s ratings are slipping into the low 40s and even high 30s. Midterms are always a referendum on the party holding the White House. Only three times since the Civil War has the party in power won seats in the House. But this is not just any midterm. This is the Donald Trump midterm, and it’s hard to remember when the stakes have been much higher. 

Still, Coffman is, beyond doubt, a survivor. His district, which is fairly evenly split among Democrats, Republicans and unaffiliateds, has been rated a toss-up in the last three election cycles. Coffman won them all. He won the last two — against a pair of well-known candidates in Andrew Romanoff and Morgan Carroll — by nearly double figures.

And now? 

As with any responsible pollster, the NYT/Siena poll offers a warning that there “are many ways (the poll) could be unrepresentative of the district in November.” And then it counts the ways. It’s one poll, and it’s always a fool’s game to put too much faith in any single poll. The poll, which is weighted, could have gotten the weighing wrong. There’s a significant margin of error of plus or minus 4.8 points. 

But, let’s agree, 11 points in a poll conducted by respected pollsters are a few too many points to ignore.

We know Coffman has survived the best the Democrats could throw at him. And we know he easily survived the Trump factor in 2016 even though Hillary Clinton carried his district by nearly 10 points.

It would be a mistake to think, whatever the poll says, that Coffman can’t win again. But this poll will be well noted across the country because it’s that significant. The NYT/Siena people plan to poll 50 districts across the country. They plan to re-poll in certain districts, and let’s hope they come back to Colorado.

After all, a loss by someone like Coffman would be the kind of loss that would almost certainly cost the Republicans their majority in the House. Nate Silver, at FiveThirtyEight.com, has already put the odds of a Democratic takeover at 7 out of 8.

It’s true that Democrat Jason Crow seems to be running a good campaign against Coffman. But there’s more at work here than Crow. In the NYT/Siena poll, 48 percent of the respondents said they had no opinion of Crow. We all know who the elephant is in the polling booth — and you’ll just have to pardon the pun.

Colorado Politics has an interesting piece (it’s behind a paywall) on whether Coffman has been a Trump enabler – as Democrats accuse him of being – or a sometimes-when-it-matters-to-his-constituents Trump dissenter, as he hopes Democrats and independents see him. The answer is it depends on whom you ask.

At fivethirtyeight.com, they keep track of congressional voting records, and Coffman has taken the same position as Trump on 86 of 90 votes. That means less than you probably think, but tell that to Republicans who hammered Mark Udall with a similar argument about his level of voting agreement with Obama.

Coffman’s team argues that you should look at the key issues, like Obamacare and immigration, and see how Coffman has stood up to Trump. Certainly, we’ve seen some strong anti-Trump words from Coffman. But here’s the Coffman problem. He doesn’t just want to have it both ways. He needs to have it both ways.

He needs Republicans, who support Trump by something like 90 percent, to come out in force to support him. He needs Democrats and unaffiliated voters, including those who have voted for him in the past, to think he’s a strong-minded independent. He even joined the bipartisan House Problem Solvers caucus, which, according to my unofficial count, has yet to solve any problems.

Here’s the Coffman dilemma in one revealing example. In Trump’s latest tweet-storm embarrassment — one of his more acute embarrassments — he accused Democrats of distorting a study showing that Puerto Rico suffered nearly 3,000 deaths in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Trump didn’t stop there. He called his administration’s reaction to the storm one of the “incredible unsung success” stories despite the nearly 3,000 lost. And even after Hurricane Florence hit the Carolinas, with five dead to that point, Trump was still arguing over Twitter about his performance in Puerto Rico.

After Trump’s first tweets about the number of dead, Coffman responded strongly, saying that they were “abhorrent.” But note how he said it: “I find it abhorrent to deny the number of those who were lost in Puerto Rico last year. FEMA and the Administration should be focused on the storm bearing down on the east coast.”

Coffman took a strong shot at Trump without naming Trump. He called the tweets abhorrent without citing the tweets.

You can see the problem. There’s no doubt that Coffman is in a tough spot. And now he’s in a tough spot with a poll showing him 11 points behind.

9 COMMENTS

  1. Good article. Coffman needs to be held accountable, as he’s yet another politician whose recent rhetoric simply doesn’t match his behavior.

    Littwin clearly points out that, contrary to Coffman’s carefully crafted lean toward the center, he votes the Republican/Trump Way (forever hitched now) over 95% of the time, just like a good little footsoldier.

    Can’t have it both ways. At this point, you’re either complicit or not.

    Coffman has clearly been complicit.

    Complicity isn’t flying in Colorado…no matter what the faithful 37% try to tell you.

    Cory is next up to learn this lesson.

  2. Good piece…(as usual)…underneath the funny, goofy approach, some genuine insights…
    That said…Have become familiar to a certain extent with Aurora politics accidentally. And there is a pattern that several friends have pointed out. So…a solid and actually quite liberal Dem – Romanoff or Carroll are either in a dead heat or somewhat ahead, but the “escapt artist” – Coffman pulls out the election, What is he doing…certainly pouring Republican $ into the ads is a part of the picture..But there is another factor at work – Coffman might support Trumpty-Dumpty pretty much 100% on the prez’ awful immigration policies, but in his district Coffman has learned how to work the immigrant vote, most especially that of the Ethiopian (some 35,000 strong approximately) and the Latino community – in both cases through their religious institutions. The votes of these folks are rarely counted in polls. These communities though tend to vote in a block – the minister (or chief religious figure) says vote X not Y…and pretty much it is a done deed, and Coffman has squeaked by once again. Coffman might be downright awful on domestic issues that concern these communities (immigration rights, public education, healthcare) voting with Trumpty-Dumpty almost all the time..but he has worked (and produced) for the Ethiopian Community – co-sponsoring legislation criticizing the previous repressive Addis Ababa government. He has been there for the Ethiopians and they have responded by voting in droves for him – although from what I am told from Ethiopian friends, that community is overwhelmingly registered Democrat . Meanwhile until recently the only time the Ethiopians see the Dems is during the election time…and then they disappear. Will Coffman pull it off again? Dunno, hope not, but I don’t see much sustained Dem attention activity in Aurora and, unfortunately, I wouldn’t be surprised if Coffman pulls another rabbit out of the hat.

    Seems that Republican rightwingers in Minnesota have followed a similar script, with similar results.

    And by the way, I hear Coffman has learned Spanish.

  3. 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

    “The only remaining question in the presidential race is how badly (or, if you will, how bigly) Donald Trump will lose.” _ 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

    President Trump 306 Electoral votes
    Hillary Clinton 232

    #droptheMike
    }{

    This may be the best column Mr. Littwin has ever written and if not it’s certainly near the top. Its level of candor is unprecedented, unexpected, unnatural and very refreshing.

    Not only did Mr. Littwin admit to being skeptical about the The New York Times Upshot/Siena College poll and its results but he expressed that skepticism in the very first sentence of the column. That’s right, the…first…sentence. He made no attempt to hide or disguise his doubts about the results of a poll he built his entire column around. That’s next level journalism.

    But he went beyond merely expressing his doubts about the poll, he outlined exactly why he was suspicious, “As with any responsible pollster, the NYT/Siena poll offers a warning that there “are many ways (the poll) could be unrepresentative of the district in November.” And then it counts the ways. It’s one poll, and it’s always a fool’s game to put too much faith in any single poll. The poll, which is weighted, could have gotten the weighing wrong. There’s a significant margin of error of plus or minus 4.8 points.” and “In the NYT/Siena poll, 48 percent of the respondents said they had no opinion of (Democrat Jason) Crow. We all know who the elephant is in the polling booth — and you’ll just have to pardon the pun.”

    This will not be Mr. Littwin’s last this-time-Coffman-is-really-really-in-trouble column but his heretofore unheard of openness and honesty deserves recognition. While Mr. Littwin’s use of this poll may prove to be embarrassing it’s far more believable than using a meaningless Georgia special election to suggest Rep. Coffman may be vulnerable.

    Keep in mind that Mr. Littwin has been all over the map on Rep. Coffman, declaring in 2014 that Andrew Romanoff was, “yes, the Dems’ maybe last and certainly best chance to win (the 6th CD) seat.” and 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 “might well hold onto his seat forever” about the results of a poll Mr. Littwin has huge misgivings about.

    Would Mr. Littwin have used the findings of the NYT/Siena poll had it shown Rep. Coffman leading by 11 points? Of course not but that shouldn’t detract from his long overdue honesty.

    Way to go, Mr. Littwin!

    November 08, 2016

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

    Flags of Valor
    Folds of Honor
    Special Operations Warriors Foundation

    Veterans Day – November 11, 2018

  4. “Elections have consequences”

    Poor Stolen Valor Don, you keep saying that as if it supports something. I don’t think it means what you think it means. This is particularly true considering that Mueller is batting a thousand and Comrade Chump lost by millions of votes and was for the first time in modern history appointed by the EC without the consent of the majority.

    I’ll repeat that since you keep conveniently forgetting it. President* Traitor has never enjoyed the support of the majority…ever.

    Nothing you say about the electron changes that fact.

    It’s almost is if you wear your willful ignorance as a badge of honor.

    Which is weird.

    It just doesn’t fly outside the Faux News bubble…

  5. ” I don’t think (Elections have consequences) means what you think it means.”

    So what does “Elections have consequences” mean to you?

    Here’s what it means to the president, “Elections have consequences, and at the end of the day, I won ”

  6. If that’s true…what’s Mueller doing?

    So…sounds like you are finally getting it….and seems like we’re clear that Comrade Chump’s “election win” in no way signifies majority support…which makes your Pravda Propaganda kinda silly, no?

    No majority support.

    Ever.

    Clear?

  7. Jay,

    You’re right about one thing: President Trump’s November 8, 2016 victory does not indicate majority support.

    But guess what, it doesn’t matter because according to the US Constitution (you do know what that is, right?) the Electoral College elects the president of the United States. You seem to lack the ability to accept facts, no matter how inconvenient or at odds with your current viewpoint, Try reading the Constitution, it may help.

    By the way, you never defined what “elections have consequences” means to you. You want to share?

    Here’s what it means to the president, “Elections have consequences, and at the end of the day, I won ”

    President Trump* 306 Electoral votes
    Hillary Clinton 232

    * Defeated Hillary Clinton is what many have described as the greatest upset in the history of American politics.

  8. Bingo.

    Now you’re getting it. It’s weird it took you this long to realize that you’re part of the minority in this country who have followed this traitor.

    The Minority.

    You don’t represent most Americans…just like your President*.

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