A Public Policy Polling (PPP) survey, conducted in February, predicts that Democrat Jason Crow would defeat U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman of Aurora by five percentage points. A December PPP poll showed an unnamed Democrat defeating the incumbent by eight points.
But a PPP poll in October showed Coffman leading Crow by a 43 to 36 margin.
What’s going on in the district?
Coffman’s campaign spokesman, Tyler Sandberg, has called the PPP polls “garbage” multiple times, even though the October survey put Coffman ahead. The December poll, according to Sandberg, as quoted in the Aurora Sentinel, isn’t worth the “paper it’s printed on.”
“Why do you think the PPP polls are ‘garbage?'” I asked Sandberg on Twitter “…Do you have a specific problem with the methodology? Thanks.”
Sandberg, a prolific tweeter, did not respond, though he’s pointed out that these three PPP polls were conducted for progressive organizations. And, to be fair, all three showed undecided voters in the double digits.
PPP Director Tom Jensen told me his firm “absolutely” used the same polling methodology in the February survey (showing Crow beating Coffman), the December poll (showing a generic Dem beating Coffman), and the October survey (showing Coffman beating Crow).
Jensen also defended PPP’s track record in Colorado.
“At various points in 2016, there were polls that had Hillary up by 11 and 14 points in Colorado,” he said. “We consistently had Hillary up by six points, and that’s what she won by. So even if there were a lot of polls that did inflate what Hillary was winning Colorado by, and what Michael Bennet was winning Colorado by, we were pretty much on the mark on those races. In 2014, we had Udall losing, just as he did. In 2012, when most of the polls had Colorado as a tie, we had Obama up by five or six, which is what ended up happening. We’ve had a strong track record in Colorado.”
He said that PPP hasn’t done much polling in Coffman’s district previously, though a PPP poll from Oct. 2013 showed Coffman trailing a generic Democrat 49 to 41, and Coffman went on to win the next year.
Polling aficionados know that a survey or two doesn’t mean all that much.
I asked Jensen for his explanation of the current Democratic advantage in Coffman’s district.
“Clearly there are many polls nationally that have Democrats up by 12 or 14 points on the generic congressional ballot,” Jensen told me. “So it’s safe to say places like Coffman’s district are going to be leaning toward the Democratic side as well. Obviously, there’s a campaign to be conducted and things could shift, but it’s pretty intuitive that in a national political climate like this, that somebody like Mike Coffman in a Clinton-plus-nine district, would be really struggling for re-election.”
“I think Coffman definitely does worse against a generic Democrat than a named Democrat, and that’s not because anything is wrong with Jason Crow,” said Jensen. “It’s just a reflection that Jason Crow isn’t that well known yet. So you expect in these situations that a named Democrat, with low name recognition, wouldn’t be doing quite as well as a generic Democrat who could be anybody. But I do think that part of the reason you had Jason Crow doing better in our recent poll than our poll in October could be increased name recognition over the four months between the two polls, maybe an increased sense that he might be the Democratic candidate.
“But we also have found a worse political climate in the last month for Republicans across the country than we found in early October, when we did that original poll. So I think part of the shift could just be that.
You had Republicans, when we did that earlier poll in October, already hurting because of health care, and now we’ve added to the equation that they are hurting because of tax reform. Those are two big issues now where Republicans have antagonized voters.”
Asked what else might be different about the Coffman race this year, Jensen said: “One dynamic he’s going to have to deal with this year that’s different is you had people who, even if they were voting Democratic, were willing to vote for Coffman as a check, while they simultaneously voted for a Democratic president. And now with a Republican president, people who voted for Clinton but also voted for Coffman–or for Obama and voted for Coffman– they no longer need to vote for Coffman as a check on a Democratic president. They might feel they need to vote for a Democratic candidate as a check on a Republican president.”
Other candidates in the race are businessman Levi Tillemann and attorney David Aarestad. Highlands Ranch Republican Roger Edwards is running against Coffman in the GOP primary.