Patrick Murphy Kicks Off Bid for Marco Rubio’s Senate Seat, Giving Florida Democrats a Top Candidate

Patrick Murphy

Patrick Murphy (center)

By David Nir, Daily Kos

As expected, Florida Rep. Patrick Murphy formally kicked off his bid for Senate on Monday, giving establishment Democrats their top choice for GOP Sen. Marco Rubio’s seat next year and boosting the party’s effort to take back Congress’s upper chamber. Murphy is young — just 31—but has twice won a very difficult, right-leaning district in southern Florida’s Treasure Coast, starting with a memorable upset over Republican Allen West in 2012. And last year, despite the massive red wave, he crushed a lackluster opponent by 20 points. Murphy’s an incredibly hard worker and exceptional fundraiser, plus he’s also very well-connected (his father is a wealthy real estate developer). And the same centrist record he compiled that helped him hold down his House seat should, the prevailing wisdom goes, help him statewide in Florida, a very evenly divided swing state. However, the same sort of thinking says that Murphy’s profile could simultaneously hurt him in a Democratic primary, especially if an outspoken liberal like Orlando-area Rep. Alan Grayson gets in as well.But for all of Murphy’s votes that might rankle progressives (like supporting the Keystone pipeline or weakening Wall Street reforms), he’s no conservative Blue Dog. Indeed, he answered the Daily Kos questionnaire perfectly in his first run for Congress, and in his launch announcement, he focused on themes solidly within the progressive mainstream:

I’m a consensus-builder who is working to boost the economy by cutting waste in government, raise the minimum wage, strengthen Social Security and Medicare, and protect the Everglades.

Grayson, meanwhile, has often allowed his mouth to be his own worst enemy, and Florida Democrats may not cotton to his style. Grayson is also in the middle of a very ugly divorce lawsuit in which he’s alleging his estrange wife committed bigamy, and — surely there’s no connection here, right? — he recently declared only a “fool” would enter the Senate race so early. That kind of advice might have suited 19th century politics, but the demands of modern campaigns are such that Murphy is smart to get in early. Indeed, Murphy’s already secured some key support. Harry Reid had previously signaled his backing, and the DSCC arranged a “meet-and-greet” for Murphy with power players in D.C. just the other week, which is not the kind of thing they do for just anyone. And shortly after his announcement Monday, Murphy received an endorsement from Rep. Ted Deutch, who represents a nearby district and had been a possible (if unlikely) Senate candidate himself.

Stunningly, though, DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who recently had said no to a bid herself, downplayed Murphy’s entry and spoke of the “many leaders who could step forward” to run as well. It’s a pretty amazing that the titular head of the Democratic Party would not rally behind a top-tier recruit for a key Senate seat (or at least just offer some anodyne remarks), but the same kind of skills that have helped her alienate so many people are probably what kept Wasserman Schultz from gathering support for a Senate run of her own.

But as Murphy builds up a head of steam, Wasserman Schultz and Grayson notwithstanding, one huge question remains: Will Rubio seek re-election, or will he give up his post after just one term and throw it all away on a White House bid? All signs point to the latter, but he scarcely registers in national polls and may not want to terminate his political career so quickly. Then again, with Murphy now running, Rubio would likely face a very stiff campaign, so maybe a presidential bid sounds more fun.

Who knows when Rubio will make up his mind, though: In November, he said he’d decide “in the coming weeks.” That was, well, more than a few weeks ago. He’s also promised that he won’t try to run for both offices at once, though again, who knows if he’ll stick with that pledge, either.

If Rubio does bail, a whole host of major Republicans are considering the contest, including state Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, state Attorney General Pam Bondi, and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, as well as a number of congressmen and other elected officials. But they all have to wait on Rubio, and that’s allowed Murphy to get the jump on the entire GOP pack.

But even with this first-mover advantage, he’ll have a very difficult race ahead. Only two Democrats have won statewide in Florida since 2006, Barack Obama (2008 and 2012) and Sen. Bill Nelson (also 2012). That’s actually a positive sign for Murphy, though, since Democrats are much more competitive in the Sunshine State (as they are just about everywhere else) during presidential election years. If Murphy can survive or avoid a primary, he’ll be a force to contend with, and he’s just expanded the Senate map in a very important way for Team Blue.

Reprinted with permission from The Daily Kos


Posted By: Nick Vanocur

A talented nut in search of a publisher. Author of 'From the Desk of Nickileaks', @

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