To all the House Republicans who are planning on running in suburban America in 2020 with Donald Trump on the ballot, “good luck,” says Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO), the four-term Congress member who lost his reelection bid last week. You’re going to need it.
“Donald Trump is about Donald Trump, and what Donald Trump is, is he wants to be the center of attention every single day,” Coffman said, reflecting on Republicans’ newfound position in the House minority. “He wants to dominate the news cycle every single day, and good luck trying to get a message out of that.”
Last week Army veteran Jason Crow unseated Coffman, becoming the first Democrat to represent Colorado’s Sixth District since it was created. Crow was part of a blue wave that so far has swept in 36 Democrats from previously GOP-held districts across the country. By the time all is said and done, Democrats could be picking up closer to 40 seats this cycle.
In some ways, Coffman knew what was coming. The National Republican Congressional Committee — the official campaign arm for House Republicans — told him on Day 1 that if his race became part of the national referendum on the president, he was toast.
“I tried, and I couldn’t do it,” he said, about localizing his race. Coffman’s district, the suburbs outside of Denver, Colorado, looks like a lot of the districts Democrats were able to pick off this midterm cycle. It’s always been held by a Republican, but voters there really doesn’t like Trump. Hillary Clinton won the district by nearly 9 points in 2016.
This year, the district leaned 2 points more to the left than the national average, according to the Cook Political Report. Crow won easily, with a 12 percent margin of victory — and that was in a midterm cycle.
Coffman warns it’s only going to get harder for Republicans trying to regain a footing in the House when Trump is actually on the ballot in two years.
Coffman’s 3-part theory on his loss: it’s all about Trump
Coffman has a three-part theory on why he lost, but every one of his points boils down to one common denominator: Trump.
1) First, Coffman pointed out that history wasn’t on his side. After all, the party that controls the White House is usually disadvantaged in the midterms.
2) That said, Trump’s message nationalized the midterm elections and strategically abandoned vulnerable House members, Coffman thinks.
“I believe, quite frankly, that the president had a strategy of focusing on the Senate at the expense of the House,” he said. “That the map had it where that there were red states that Trump carried that had competitive Senate races and what he did was made the midterm a national election and about him.”
3) And when the race is nationalized, it was impossible to separate himself from Trump, Coffman said — especially when the party wasn’t doing it.
“The president’s tone is polarizing,” Coffman said. “It was very difficult to try and make the case, particularly to suburban, college-educated women who were so upset with the president, to vote for me when they felt there needed to be a greater check on President Trump.”
In two years, Trump is going to be criss-crossing the country trying to energize the base for his reelection. There are no signs that he will try and moderate his tone or adopt more consensus-building policy ideals. For Trump, divisiveness has been personally successful.
And if that’s the case, Coffman says he doesn’t see Republicans regaining any territory in the House.
“Good. Luck,” he said, laughing.