Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman is receiving national attention for attacking his party's presidential nominee Donald Trump in a new television ad.
In the 30-second video Coffman speaks directly to the camera, saying he doesn’t much care for Trump and that he will “stand up to him” if he’s elected president. There is also a Spanish version, to ensure his message reaches some of the people who might want to hear it most.
Coffman has made his stance clear on the Republicans’ pick for president by sending out press releases criticizing Trump's statements and positions. The new spot takes his campaign into uncharted territory though, as Politico reports this is the first time this year a House Republican has directly called out his party's nominee in a paid ad.
“It's exactly what Mike Coffman needs to do to win reelection in a district that's likely to vote heavily against Donald Trump,” said David Wasserman, who tracks House races for the Cook Political Report.
They rate Colorado’s 6th District a toss-up. Coffman’s Aurora-based district leans Democratic and is the most ethnically diverse in the state. Wasserman says the fact that Coffman has held on here so far makes him a model for Republicans trying to survive in challenging districts, meanings ads like this could show up in other districts soon.
“This is going to be actively encouraged by Republican leadership and campaign strategists,” Wasserman said. “Republicans have a vested interest in making sure that members like Mike Coffman come back to Congress next year. And they know that the only route to making that happen is for these members to separate themselves from the nominee.”
Coffman’s campaign is putting $50,000 into running the ad on TV and online, in which he also criticizes Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Donald Trump has not yet responded, and the presidential candidate is known for taking on his critics. Republican strategist Dick Wadhams thinks Coffman shouldn’t be worried.
“At this point, if Trump attacked him, that would almost help him,” Wadhams said. “It would probably drive home the point that Mike is independent thinking and independent from the national race.”
While Coffman is working to distance himself from Trump, his Democratic opponent, state Sen. Morgan Carroll, has been doing all she can to connect them. She points to Coffman's past hard-line stance on immigration reform, something he's softened in recent years, and to an incident in which Coffman questioned president Obama's birthplace. It’s a remark he's apologized for, but as Carroll sees it, the damage has been done.
“Trump didn't come from nowhere,” Carroll said. “We basically, over time, have seen a whole bunch of irresponsible members of Congress, including Mike Coffman, help pave the way for someone like Donald Trump to be here.”
The Coffman campaign has been doing its best to link Carroll with Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Carroll says she supports Clinton, but when the candidate held a rally just a few miles from the district earlier this week, Carroll did not attend. Wadhams says all of this just goes to show how risky both presidential contenders are for the candidates lower down on the ticket.