Trump dominates debate in Colorado Congress races
October 12, 2016
AURORA, Colo. — Four-term Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman has done everything imaginable to shore up support in a battleground district in the suburbs east of Denver. He keeps up a tireless campaign schedule and has raised far more than any congressional candidate in Colorado, from either party.
Coffman learned Spanish after his Aurora-based district was redrawn in a way that includes more Latinos. He's even learned a few basics in Amharic, the language of Ethiopian refugees in his district.
Still, he can't get away from Donald Trump.
For national Republicans, Colorado's 6th District is just one of many where Trump is playing an outsized role and threatens the GOP's majorities in the House and Senate. The national GOP's panic over its presidential nominee has less to do with the White House and more to do with states like Colorado, where the party's 5-4 Senate and congressional majority is in serious doubt.
Trump hasn't been to Aurora to campaign, but he's dominating the contest in Colorado's toughest-fought congressional race.
Coffman publicly called on Trump to abandon the presidential race after Trump's crude comments about women surfaced recently.
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Coffman's challenger, Democratic state Sen. Morgan Carroll, has based most of her campaign on comparing Coffman to Trump. Making her closing argument at a televised debate, Carroll seemed to be running against Trump, not Coffman.
"This country deserves better than Donald Trump," Carroll told the Univision audience.
The argument may be a winner in Colorado's most diverse congressional district, which is about 20 percent Latino. Democrats believe they have their best chance in years to pick up a congressional seat from Colorado, ending the GOP's 4-3 House advantage.
Coffman says he's the subject of a one-dimensional attack on his party's presidential nominee.
"In one of the most competitive districts in the country … her goal is to say, 'Mike Coffman is Donald Trump,'" Coffman said recently at a business forum.
In Colorado, GOP candidates are at times struggling to distance themselves from Trump without angering the businesman's loyalists or opening themselves up to accusations of being wishy-washy.
Not everyone is succeeding.
— In the U.S Senate race, underdog Republican Darryl Glenn is a perfect example. The outsider candidate embraced Trump early and spoke at his nominating convention in Cleveland last summer.
After Friday's comments, Glenn first said he was "extremely disappointed." He later called on Trump to step down, saying he was "simply disqualified from being commander in chief."
This week, Glenn reversed himself, saying he was "still praying over my open support of (Trump's) election" and hoped to meet Trump to discuss the matter. Finally, in Tuesday's debate with Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, Glenn declared that "I have absolutely suspended my endorsement of Donald Trump" — pending any Trump meeting.
— Democrats are hoping an anti-Trump wave helps them seize Colorado's largest congressional district. Stretching from Pueblo and southern Colorado west to the Utah state line, the 3rd District has been represented by Republican Rep. Scott Tipton since 2010. Hillary Clinton was campaigning in the district Wednesday, but Tipton has stood by Trump while disavowing Trump's comments.
In a statement sent to The Durango Herald, Tipton said, "It's unacceptable, and he must sincerely and directly apologize to all women. That said, this is the reality: It is too late to replace anyone on the ballot, and we have two flawed candidates for president."
— Republicans are distancing themselves from Trump even when they're not facing a tight race. In the 5th District, the state's reddest, Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado Springs recently sent reporters a statement blasting Trump's "flaws" before concluding, "Donald Trump remains a far superior candidate than Hillary Clinton."
Perhaps because the district is so Republican, the Democrat in the race isn't talking much about Trump, either. Misty Plowright says she hates both Trump and Clinton, and has joked that she's voting "Giant Space Rock 2016."
"Clinton is everything that is wrong with our system; Trump is everything that is wrong with our culture," Plowright said.
It all adds up to an uncertain picture.
Will dislike of Trump depress turnout for the entire GOP ticket in Colorado or will it motivate voters who cannot vote for Trump to vote Republican for congressional seats and the U.S. Senate race to counter a Hillary Clinton presidency?
"Those Republicans and unaffiliated voters who don't want to see Trump in the White House might be motivated to do whatever they can to make sure Republicans like Coffman and Tipton are re-elected in the House," said John Straayer, a political scientist at Colorado State University.
"On the other hand some might say they don't want Trump and they won't vote GOP. How those winds might cancel each other out, I have no good sense of that."
Associated Press writer James Anderson contributed to this report.