GOP loses prized Colorado Senate recruit
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Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) will seek reelection to his House seat in 2016, depriving Republicans of their top recruit to take on Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetMichael Bennet is close to deciding on possible presidential bid Senators ask CBO to review options for preventing surprise medical bills Court-packing becomes new litmus test on left MORE (D-Colo.) in a swing state the GOP might need to protect its majority in the upper chamber.

"My entire career in public service has been mission focused," Coffman, a former Marine and Iraq War veteran, said in a statement.

“I have decided to seek re-election in the House so that I may continue my mission to clean up the VA, where my position as Chairman of the House Veterans Oversight and Investigation Subcommittee has allowed me to shine a light on the culture of bureaucratic incompetence and corruption.”

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National Republicans had been giving Coffman a hard sell to enter the race. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellLessons from the 1999 U.S. military intervention in Kosovo Five things to watch as AIPAC conference kicks off Romney helps GOP look for new path on climate change MORE (R-Ky.) met with Coffman recently to discuss the opportunity.

Colorado is one of only two true pick-up opportunities for Republicans in 2016, along with Nevada. The GOP must defend 24 Senate seats, compared with 10 for Democrats, as the GOP seeks to protect its newly won majority.

Coffman’s exit is a blow to those hopes.

The Colorado Republican is a proven fundraiser and has impressed the GOP by winning several competitive House races in a perennially competitive swing district that encompasses the southern portion of liberal Denver.

In 2014, Coffman easily dispatched former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, a top Democratic recruit, by 9 percentage points. Coffman has also won statewide elections for secretary of State and treasurer.

The bench behind Coffman is thin and led by two potential candidates who don’t appear to have Senate ambitions.

Walker Stapleton, the 41-year-old state treasurer, is believed to be eyeing the governor’s mansion, and Coffman’s wife, Cynthia Coffman, who won the election to become Colorado’s attorney general in 2014, is believed to be happy in that role.

Republicans will now be looking to Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Colo.), who has expressed interest in running.

The GOP believes Bennet is vulnerable.

“Congressman Coffman has consistently shown his dedication to the 6th congressional district and when we elect a Republican to replace Senator Bennet, they will have a great partner in Congressman Coffman,” National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Matt Connelly said in a statement. “Senator Michael Bennet is extremely vulnerable and Colorado is a top pickup opportunity for Senate Republicans in 2016.”

But unseating Bennet would have been a challenge, even if Coffman was the nominee.

The former head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee raised more than $2 million in the first quarter, making him one of only a handful of senators to do so.

Colorado Democrats gloated over the GOP’s loss.

"Republicans in Washington are in a full-blown panic, scrambling to find a serious candidate to take on Sen. Michael Bennet,” said Colorado Democratic Party spokesman Andrew Zucker.

“This ensures what will soon be a crowded GOP primary which will produce a Republican nominee who is out of touch, won't stand up for average Coloradans and can't win in 2016."

— This story was updated at 4:58 p.m.