Could Coffman’s Immigration Strategy Help the GOP?

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Rep. Mike Coffman (credit: CBS)

Rep. Mike Coffman (credit: CBS)

Written by Dominic Dezzutti

Congressman Mike Coffman made headlines over the weekend after attending a meeting in Aurora to discuss immigration issues. The headlines weren’t just about the appearance, but more about the fact that Coffman was there to listen to a predominantly Hispanic audience, in a Catholic church and spoke to the crowd in Spanish.

The overall opinion that Coffman expressed was that the current immigration system in the United States in broken and three things must be done to address the problems.

Coffman said, “A comprehensive immigration reform proposal must include three essential elements; it must secure our borders and provide for effective enforcement of our immigration laws, it must contribute to the economic growth of our country and it must be compassionate in keeping families together.”

Since Coffman is in a very competitive Congressional district and faces a stiff fight from his Democratic opponent, Andrew Romanoff, Coffman’s stance on immigration isn’t terribly surprising.

However, will this be welcomed as a strategy for other Republicans in Congress that are not running in competitive districts? Is this a way the Republican Party can finally make inroads with Hispanic voters?

With most independent voters looking for actual reform instead of hardline stances, the way that Rep. Coffman is approaching this issue could certainly help the GOP finally make some progress with Latino voters.

But the bigger question is can GOP elected leaders and candidates get through their own party with the opinion that immigration reform needs more than secure borders? Can compromise on this issue really win the day?

It will be interesting to see how Coffman’s strategy is seen by his fellow Republican lawmakers. If the strategy seems like an effective way to approach a competitive Congressional district race, then why would that not apply to the larger issue of attracting more support on a national level?

That equation may seem simple to some people, but when it comes to fundraising within traditional Republican sources, “compromise” and “reform” are not words that inspire many checks to be written.

To be fair, those words rarely inspire checks among Democratic fundraisers, but there is a key difference. Democratic strategists have been able to coax more funders that winning is more important than purist party theology.

Republican Party loyalists have not been keen on that idea. Philosophic purity has taken precedence to winning general election races in the past few elections. If Coffman is successful in his re-election bid, will that be an example that may help break that trend?

That is a question loaded with a lot of “ifs”. The strategy itself is a gamble because it is a new take on immigration. It’s not like Romanoff or his supporters will simply let Coffman appear to be a new voice on immigration. Coffman still faces a tough race and a difficult road on immigration issues.

But if Mike Coffman begins to get some traction with this new strategy, don’t be surprised that more GOP legislators in competitive races take a cue from the Colorado Congressman.

About The Blogger

- Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here usually every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti is also the host and producer of the Emmy award winning Colorado Inside Out on Colorado Public Television.

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