In Colorado, Democrats and Republicans usually consider unaffiliated voters the electoral prize. But as candidates lurch toward Election Day, are they leaving voters at the ends of the political spectrum behind?
Polling has shown that Republicans and Democrats have overwhelmingly herded toward their parties' candidates in the gubernatorial race. In two Colorado polls taken last week, Democratic nominee Jared Polis and Republican nominee Walker Stapleton each averaged about 90 percent of the support from their respective parties. Of course, the reason Polis remains the healthy favorite to win on Tuesday is that unaffiliated voters, who make up the plurality of voters in Colorado, are supporting him by twenty points based on the week's Magellan Strategies and Keating Research polls, continuing similar trends in other surveys.
Polis and Stapleton, however, had high-profile primaries earlier this year, meaning they both had to earn a plurality of their own party's voters to advance to the general election runoff, helping them consolidate support among Democrats and Republicans alike.
But in other races, notably the 6th Congressional District race between Republican incumbent Mike Coffman and Democratic challenger Jason Crow, there are signs that not everyone is rallying around the party cause. Two New York Times polls of the 6th District race — one in September, another in October — showed around 85 percent of Republicans backing Coffman. That might sound like a lot, but with registered Democrats now outnumbering registered Republicans in the 6th, Coffman will probably need the full slate of the GOP vote to withhold Crow's challenge, and there may be some Republicans staying at home or voting third party instead.
While Coffman is famously popular among immigrant groups and independents, some Republicans further to the right on the political spectrum aren't as enthralled with the five-term congressman, who has worked hard to mold himself as a moderate Republican, frequently distancing himself from and criticizing Donald Trump.
Tom Tancredo, a former Colorado Republican congressman notorious for his anti-immigrant views, says that while he strongly supported Stapleton, his support for more moderate Coffman is tepid — at best.
"I would guess that Republicans in [the 6th District], [who are] perhaps, like I, not excited by Mike Coffman's candidacy, will probably vote for him," Tancredo says. "And that might pull him through, as he has done a pretty good job of overcoming the odds there in his district."
Asked if he'd tell people to vote for Coffman, Tancredo says:
"I'd probably just shut up. I've been yelling at him long enough. Every time I really gave him hell, I'd always say I don't think we're going to lose [Republican control of the House of Representatives] by one seat. ... I don't think we're going to lose the House by one seat [now], but hell, it might be. I would just not say anything and bite my tongue."
Roger Edwards, who gave Coffman a challenge from the right last winter but failed to make the primary ballot, says he didn't vote for Coffman but supports Stapleton.
"At least the libertarian won’t vote to impeach Trump," Edwards says of his decision to support Kat Martin, the libertarian candidate in the 6th. "I would say the good establishment Republicans will vote for Coffman. They care little about how he actually votes as long as he has an 'R' by his name, shakes their hands and pats them on the back. The casual Republican and conservatives who value integrity will think twice about voting for Coffman. That’s how he loses."
Edwards says he voted for Stapleton — who received a second Twitter endorsement from Trump, perhaps a signal of Colorado GOP concerns based on early vote returns about turning out their base — and he supported other Republican candidates down-ballot as well.
On the left, Polis has found himself in some bouts of hot liberal water over the years because of his support for issues like fracking and school choice. We've said it once and we'll say it again: Polis isn't exactly a kombucha-chugging liberal, despite the perceptions that his home town of Boulder and the solidly blue 2nd Congressional District that he currently represents generate. But as polling has shown, he's still garnering a good chunk of the vote from those who may not agree with all of his stances.
"The folks that I have talked to are supporting [Polis], mainly because we can't run anybody in the Green Party right now for those higher races, so we have to support someone who's going to lean more to our position," says Roberta Ayala, the Adams County Green Party chairwoman. "But there's still a lot of things that we don't agree with."
In the 6th, many thought the nasty Democratic primary between Crow and challenger Levi Tillemann would split the party earlier this year. But polling has shown that over 90 percent of Democrats support Crow. If the party is able to rally voters behind Crow, Coffman will be in a challenging position on Election Day.
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The reason for Democratic unity behind Crow? It's simple, says Arapahoe County Democratic Party chairwoman Mary Ellen Wolf. Democrats are united in their disdain for Trump, who lost the 6th District by about nine points in 2016.
"Our progressive wing always wants us to pull [left] more aggressively. There's no question about that," Wolf says. "But I see a lot of people on Facebook, for instance, saying, 'Yes, I would like Jason to be a little more progressive. But I'm voting all Democratic this year [and] supporting Jason Crow because the choice is obvious.' That's what I'm hearing and seeing from people."
That said, Democrats acknowledge many immigrant groups' support for Coffman, despite some of them registering as Democrats. But if early voting numbers and polling are to be believed, Democrats may have the advantage in consolidating down-ballot support, particularly in the hyper-competitive 6th District race.
"I think national politics have gotten so obviously strained that subtle differences between the different candidates are being washed out by the obvious differences between what's happening with the Republican Congress and what would be happening if we had a Democratic Congress," Wolf says.