By Nicholas Riccardi and Steve Peoples, Associated Press
In an ominous sign for the GOP’s bid to hold onto the U.S. House, the political group affiliated with Speaker Paul Ryan on Friday dropped its support of two incumbent congressmen — including Aurora Republican Mike Coffman — signaling how difficult November could be for the Republican majority.
The Congressional Leadership Fund canceled $3.1 million in ad spending in the districts of Michigan Rep. Mike Bishop and five-term incumbent Coffman.
It’s CLF’s first act of triage ahead of the election and comes at the time of the cycle when major spenders cut their losses in races they think are no longer winnable.
“CLF will continue to run strong field operations in these districts and will continue to conduct polling and evaluate races across the country as we do everything we can to protect the Republican Majority,” spokesperson Courtney Alexander said in a statement.
Coffman is running for his sixth term in a suburban Denver district that supported Hillary Clinton but he still won by eight percentage points in 2016.
He has a history of regularly trouncing Democratic challengers in his district and has close ties to local immigrant communities, which make up one-fifth of his district’s population.
But Coffman is one of 25 Republicans representing congressional districts won by Clinton and has been seen as highly vulnerable. He faces Democrat Jason Crow, a Denver attorney and first-time candidate, on Nov. 6.
Democrats need a net gain of 23 seats to take control of the House.
“That’s Washington, D.C.,” Coffman campaign manager Tyler Sandberg said of the CLF move. “One day you’re up, the next day you’re down. That’s not how Mike Coffman is wired. He’s a Marine. Damn the torpedoes — Team Coffman is full speed ahead.”
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Outside groups supporting Coffman have already been outspent by organizations backing Crow, adding to the seriousness of the Congressional Leadership Fund decision.
The move also comes after a recent New York Times poll showed Coffman down 11 points to Crow. (Coffman’s campaign has questioned the accuracy of that poll in terms of reflecting the electorate.)
Dropping Bishop is perhaps the more significant sign of the party’s prospects. President Donald Trump won the suburban Detroit district by 7 percentage points while narrowly winning Michigan overall. But Republicans in Michigan have struggled this year, and Bishop has been regularly outraised by his challenger Elissa Slotkin, a former CIA agent and defense official.
Jesse Hunt, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said the House GOP campaign arm has not canceled its ad reservations in either Bishop’s or Coffman’s district.
Peoples reported from New York. Associated Press writer Bill Barrow in Atlanta contributed to this report. Colorado Sun staff writer Jesse Paul also contributed to this report.