In a midterm cycle where the best Democrats can hope for is Republicans not taking complete control of Congress, the party has found something to lift its spirits: a race for a House seat in Colorado that could actually flip to blue in November.
The race between incumbent GOP Rep. Mike Coffman and former Democratic state House speaker Andrew Romanoff is competitive in large part because the once-solidly Republican district was redrawn after the 2010 Census -- it's now evenly split among Republicans, Democrats and unaffiliated voters.
Coffman, who easily won in 2008 with more than 60 percent of the vote, now finds himself in a scramble to hold onto his seat, as an unprecedented amount of money pours in for his Democratic opponent.
Romanoff, a well-known Colorado politician and longtime Clinton family ally, has attracted a flood of donations as Democrats see the 6th District race as perhaps their best chance of picking up a House seat this fall from Republicans. According to the latest financial filings, Romanoff had raised $3.4 million as of the end of June, with nearly $2.7 million on hand (similar to Coffman's numbers).
The figure reportedly is more than any House challenger has raised this year.
The circumstances have Coffman fighting for his seat, and rewriting his playbook -- as he noticeably softens his tone on immigration.
The 2010 redistricting changed the makeup of his district from 8 percent Hispanic to 20 percent Hispanic overnight. Coffman had been seen as especially vulnerable on border issues because of his past votes against comprehensive immigration reform and the DREAM Act.
"His opponent is hitting him really hard on that issue," Colorado-based political analyst Abraham Morales said. "Immigration has become the issue where Romanoff hopes to set himself apart from Coffman."
In a debate last month, Coffman explained his immigration stance as a "step-by-step" approach, with the first step being security. "We've got to secure our border and enforce our laws. But I think we also need to be compassionate in keeping families together."
Romanoff wasted no time zeroing in on the congressman's comments. "The congressman has mentioned a step-by-step approach," he said. "That would be fine if Congress were willing to take a single step."
Coffman is even learning to speak Spanish so he can talk directly to Hispanic voters.
"Last week he was at a popular Latino supermarket in Aurora talking to Latino voters," said Morales, adding: "If he is able to connect [on a personal level] he may be able to get Latino voters to see him as more than just this one issue."
As Morales points out, in a district so evenly divided in terms of party affiliation, "The Hispanic vote becomes more important than ever. It will probably win the district."
Coffman told Fox31 KDVR that the competition and changes in the district have made him a "better congressman," but downplayed the notion that he's modified his positions.
"It wasn't so much I had to change, it was listening to people," he said, discussing the re-drawing of the district.
The demographics in the re-drawn district now closely mirror the state as a whole, which itself has become a battleground in presidential elections. This has drastically changed the dynamic in the district where Coffman originally took over for anti-illegal immigration firebrand Tom Tancredo in 2009.
"You just don't survive in Colorado politics if you can't find the middle ground," Colorado pollster and political analyst Floyd Ciruli said.
Coffman already faced a tough re-election in 2012, winning by a mere 7,000 votes. Romanoff, though, is a formidable opponent.
In 2010, Romanoff scared the daylights out of the national Democratic establishment by offering incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet a far stiffer primary challenge than expected. In that race, Bill Clinton endorsed Romanoff over the incumbent; Romanoff had backed Hillary Clinton in the 2008 presidential primaries.
Bennet went on to squeak out a victory against Republican challenger Ken Buck in the general election, winning by fewer than 30,000 votes. He did so in part by portraying Buck as an anti-woman, anti-immigration extremist.
Ciruli says Romanoff's campaign has not hesitated to adopt the same formula. "They are using the playbook of focusing on women's issues and Hispanic issues."
The new voter breakdown -- mirroring that of the nation -- has also turned the race into somewhat of a bellwether, and national parties and political pundits everywhere are watching it closely.
"It's a metaphor for the Republicans," Ciruli said. "If they can't win here, that says a lot about their ability to win these kinds of close competitive races in other parts of the country."