Adam Frisch’s Reverse Coattails

It’s no coincidence that Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) ran ahead of Joe Biden by the widest margin in the Congressional district where another Democrat overperformed dramatically down ballot.

A fall 2021 report by Run for Something, For Our Future, and BlueLabs confirmed the reverse coattails effect, when “down-ballot candidates can help push the top of the ticket across the finish line.” The report found that Democrats contesting state legislature seats down-ballot boosted Democrats in statewide races at the top of the ticket.

This reverse coattail effect may also be true for stronger competitors in US House districts, as evidenced by the 2022 Colorado Senate race.

In 7 of Colorado’s 8 U.S. Congressional districts, Bennet ran very close to Biden (overperforming by an average of 0.3 points). But in Colorados 3rd Congressional district, Bennet ran a full 3 points ahead of Biden — 10x his average in the rest of the state.

What was surprising about Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District in 2022?

The Democratic nominee for Congress in CO-03, Adam Frisch, ran 5+ points ahead of Joe Biden in his district and notched the one of strongest overperformances of the 2022 cycle, coming within just 546 votes of defeating Lauren Boebert in a seat that was widely rated as “Safe Republican.”

Frisch ran as a centrist insurgent and overperformed in CO-03 by reaching out to and welcoming in independent and moderate Republican crossover voters, an effort that likely had the up-ballot effect of boosting Bennet among these traditionally non-Democratic constituencies.

This data combines with prior research on the existence of a reverse coattails effect and further demonstrates the value of investing in compelling down-ballot challenges to extremist GOP incumbents in states with competitive races at the top of the ticket.

Further research on is required to better understand this effect, but our findings align with the thesis that the best way to protect democracy is to practice democracy everywhere we can by giving voters genuine choices.

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