After last year’s election, the communications director of the anti-abortion group Personhood USA held up U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) as a candidate who “maintained his 100% pro-life position (without compromising or denying the personhood of children) and won.”
Abortion issues have played a key role in recent campaigns at all levels in Colorado, on the campaign trail and in political advertising, and they are likely to take center stage in this race, as the two candidates fight for the critical votes of women in Colorado’s Sixth Congressional District, which was re-drawn after the 2010 Census.
Coffman’s views on abortion aligned more closely with the makeup of his old district, which used to include large swaths of ultra-right Colorado Springs, home of Focus on the Family. The seat was previously held by immigration extremist Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO).
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So Coffman’s decision in 2008 and 2010 to endorse “personhood” ballot initiatives, which would have banned all abortion in the state, even in the case of rape and incest, as well as common forms of birth control, made some political sense.
So did thumping his chest about them. Once, after he apparently stated on a conservative radio show that he favored giving rape victims the option of having an abortion, Coffman wrote a personal letter to the radio host, clarifying that he was opposed to all abortion, even in the case of rape.
Similarly, Coffman’s vote to re-define rape, restricting it to the “legitimate” kind under federal law, undoubtedly played well in his old district.
But after winning his 2012 race in his re-drawn district by just two percentage points to a Democratic challenger, widely seen as weak, Coffman went from being considered plain-old vulnerable to a downright sitting duck by Democrats. Opponents are calling him an endangered species.
His Democratic challenger, Romanoff, is considered an expert fundraiser and campaigner—with wide appeal. Some Democrats were critical of Romanoff during his unsuccessful primary race against Michael Bennett, who went on to win Colorado’s U.S. Senate seat against Tea Party upstart Ken Buck. But bad blood seems to have subsided, as the Democratic primary field has cleared for Romanoff.
Coffman has proven himself to be a tough and savvy campaigner as well, with deep fundraising connections, cultivated during his tenure not only in Congress, but also as Colorado Secretary of State. His military background, including service in Iraq, connects with some voters in the heart of his district, near Aurora. Coffman opposed ending the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy and he joined Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) in calling for the military to ban same-sex marriage ceremonies on military property.
At a Greenwood Village Chamber of Commerce speech last month, Coffman talked at length about his family’s history of military service and his efforts to reform military spending.
He didn’t go out of his way, like he did years before, to talk about abortion. In fact, the topic never came up.
This will surely change as the campaign heats up in the coming months. And if Coffman doesn’t bring it up, or ducks questions, as he did during the last election, Democrats are unlikely to let the silence last long.