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Mike Coffman —Photo by Paul Morigi, Brookings Institute / Flickr via Creative Commons

Opinion: Mike Coffman Tries to Outrun the Stench of Trump

And the stench is winning.

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There’s a classic Seinfeld episode in which Jerry has his car parked at a restaurant, only to find that his valet’s B.O. is so toxic that neither he nor anyone who rides in the car can escape it. In the end the odor is so insurmountable he ends up giving the car away to a random stranger who can’t bear to stay inside it.

In 2016 election terms, the valet is Donald Trump, the car is the Republican Party, and the passengers are all the down-ballot GOP candidates who can’t seem to shake the repulsive and withering reek their putative leader is emanating.

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The latest self-made victim in Colorado is Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CD6), who’s defending his seat against former Colorado Senate president Morgan Carroll. What was once a reliably conservative district under Tom Tancredo has become competitive the past few election cycles after redistricting brought more minority voters within its boundaries.

Coffman fended off a challenge from Andrew Romanoff last time around, but in this year of Trump, his hold on the throne is shakier than Cersei Lannister’s.

Much of the precariousness has to do with Coffman’s own unforced errors and his baldly transparent attempts to do or say almost anything to keep his seat. He’s joined Trump in the past by openly questioning President Obama’s heritage and Christian faith, putting him squarely in the widely discredited and ridiculed “birther” category. Trying to make amends (of a sort), Coffman began taking Spanish language classes a few years ago. Although it’s tough to fault someone for trying to better connect with his new Latino constituents, the move was seen by more than a few as disingenuous pandering, particularly in light of Coffman’s promise earlier this year to back the rabidly anti-immigration Trump in the presidential election.

Now Coffman has even hedged on that pledge, hinting last week that he might consider voting for the Libertarian presidential ticket, Gary Johnson and William Weld. He also ran an ad promising to “stand up” to Trump should the reality TV star become president. All this waffling prompted a spate of angry columns from Colorado conservatives who pointed out—correctly—that Hillary Clinton remains beatable in November (although probably not in Colorado) and that Coffman’s wavering is merely serving his own electoral needs du jour while undermining the party at large.

This wave of outrage also produced what might be the single most indecipherable political analogy you’ll ever read. It arrived courtesy of the perpetually outraged Tancredo, who penned, “Mike Coffman promising to ‘stand up’ to Trump is like a French fry promising to stand up to a cheeseburger.” Um, what? Are cheeseburgers ruthlessly bullying or oppressing their side dishes? Can they adequately defend themselves against sandwich-based aggression, or should we be fomenting an #AllFriesMatter revolution?

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The whole fiasco would almost be as hilarious as a Seinfeld episode—if our fractured and dysfunctional politics hadn’t frittered away every semblance of humor.

Follow 5280 editor-at-large Luc Hatlestad on twitter at @LucHatlestad.

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