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Colorado Republican flees constituents with health care concerns

A GOP congressman wanted to host a nice little "community event" at a local library. Mike Coffman didn't know his pro-health care constituents would show up.
Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., arrives early to talk with reporters during the Colorado Republican election night party at the Doubletree Hotel in Greenwood Village, Colo., Nov. 2, 2010.
Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., arrives early to talk with reporters during the Colorado Republican election night party at the Doubletree Hotel in Greenwood Village, Colo., Nov. 2, 2010.
In 2012, Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) lashed out at President Obama in the ugliest of ways. "I don't know whether Barack Obama was born in the United States of America," the congressman said, adding, "But I do know this, that in his heart, he's not an American. He's just not an American."Coffman later tried to apologize in a memorable and unintentionally hilarious way, generating the kind of national media attention politicians usually try to avoid.Nearly five years later, Coffman is poised to become famous for something very different. KUSA, the NBC affiliate in Denver, had this striking report over the weekend about the hundreds of people who showed up at a "community event" hosted by the congressman at a local library.

While the crowd was waiting inside the lobby, singing and chanting, Aurora Police officers are putting up crime scene tape to create a perimeter outside of the library. This allowed Coffman to leave secretly at about 3:24 p.m. unbeknownst to those still waiting to see him. The community event was scheduled from 2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

By all appearances, it was quite a scene. The five-term Republican congressman, representing Colorado's most competitive district, set up an event at the Aurora Central Library the day after vowing to repeal "Obamacare" in an op-ed. What he and his staff didn't know was that roughly 200 people who support the Affordable Care Act would show up, eager to ask how and why Coffman intended to undermine their health security.The GOP lawmaker, according to his office, ended up meeting "with four people at a time for five minutes each," before a camera caught him sneaking out the library's back door, hopping in a car, and being driven away.According to a local reporter, "more than 100 people" were still waiting to see Coffman when he took off.Before Election Day, Coffman said he'd "stand up" to Donald Trump if the Republican won. Evidently, that doesn't include standing up to the president-elect's plans to radically change the American health care system.Of course, the broader significance of this extends well beyond one Colorado congressman who fled his own constituents. What stood out about the event in Aurora over the weekend was the fact that voters showed up to voice their concerns about the Republican agenda, which in turn put a conservative lawmaker on the defensive.Indeed, by some measures, Coffman's troubles on Saturday were the opening salvo in a larger political fight: there were events held all over the country yesterday, with diverse groups of Americans publicly rallying in support of the ACA and against Republican plans to gut the successful reform law.In the immediate aftermath of Trump's election, there were significant protests in areas nationwide, and it was only natural to wonder whether that spirit of activism would continue in the months that followed. The GOP crusade to target Americans' health benefits provides exactly the kind of motivation needed to get concerned voters off the couch.It's not easy to get many thousands of people to show up at public events in mid-January, but Trump's election lit a match. The fire is just starting to spread.