A new poll of Colorado’s 6th District shows the key to beating Mike Coffman

Photo: Brent Lewis/The Denver Post

There’s good news for Democrats — and a potential roadmap to victory — in a new survey of a key Colorado swing district

In the quest to unseat Rep. Mike Coffman, nothing can be taken for granted. The Aurora Republican has looked vulnerable before, only to fend off challenges for his 6th District seat in Colorado thanks to his largely fraudulent reputation as a moderate.

But the results of a new poll released this week are the latest sign that Democrats, riding a wave of activist energy towards November’s midterm elections, have a real shot at finally turning this suburban Denver swing district blue.

Coffman trails Jason Crow, the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, by five points in a general-election matchup, according to a survey conducted earlier this month by Public Policy Polling (PPP). Forty-four percent of respondents favored Crow, with 39 percent supporting Coffman and 16 percent undecided.

That follows another PPP poll released last December that showed a generic Democrat leading Coffman by eight points.

Notably, this latest survey (which was commissioned by End Citizens United, a Democratic group that has endorsed Crow) includes a result that should serve as a lodestar for the left’s latest effort to defeat Coffman. It found that Crow’s advantage doubled to ten points when pollsters informed respondents of the candidates’ respective positions on corporate influence and money in politics.

“After learning that Crow does not take money from corporate special interest PACs while Coffman has accepted $1.6 million from corporate PACs and just voted to give corporations a huge tax cut, voters support Crow 48-38 over Coffman,” said PPP’s press release.

Coffman voted for several different versions of the Republican tax bill last year, despite representing a district in which nearly 40 percent of filers itemize deductions — many of whom will pay higher taxes under the GOP plan. As 50 States of Blue reported last month, contributions to Coffman from corporate PACs and wealthy donors spiked as the bill cleared key hurdles in the House of Representatives.

In the wake of his tax vote, Coffman also picked up the support of the Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF), a super PAC with ties to House Speaker Paul Ryan. The CLF, which is funded by dark-money groups like the American Action Network and plans to spend $100 million on behalf of congressional Republicans in 2018, announced in January that it would open a field office with full-time staff in Coffman’s district.

Coffman’s windfall from corporate interests represents a key opportunity at a time when the vast asymmetry in the benefits provided by the GOP tax bill are becoming more and more clear. A CNN analysis earlier this month found that the roughly $6 billion in pay raises and one-time bonuses announced by employers in the wake of the tax cut — much hyped by Republicans around the country, including Coffman — is dwarfed by the $171 billion and counting in benefits to corporate shareholders in the form of stock buybacks.

PPP’s survey found that voters in the 6th District are primed for a message that aggressively targets Coffman’s ties to the Republican donor class. More than 60 percent of respondents said that the influence of corporate special interests on elections is a “major” problem, and the same number said they are more likely to vote for a candidate who has refused corporate PAC money.

Appeals to such populist, anti-corporate sentiment haven’t always come naturally to Democrats — and they may not come naturally to Crow, a partner at the law firm Holland & Hart, which lobbies on behalf of corporate clients across the country. The conservative Washington Free Beacon on Monday highlighted the firm’s work on behalf of the firearms industry after Crow released an ad on gun safety. The attempted oppo hit was widely mocked, but it’s likely a preview of future attacks to come.

But whether or not Crow cruises to victory in the Democratic primary, as is expected, Coffman’s vulnerability on the issues of campaign finance and his party’s $1.5 trillion tax giveaway to their wealthy benefactors is clear. To finally unseat him, Democrats need to emphasize what his voting record and campaign coffers prove beyond a doubt — that his real loyalties lie not with his constituents, but with corporations and the ultra-rich.