The most contentious Democratic fight of 2016 has very little to do with the race for the White House. The contest between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders is fascinating, but it’s unlikely to get ugly.
The real intra-party fight will be found in Florida.
First, a little context. The Senate Democratic caucus currently has 46 members – they’re in the minority for the first time since 2006 – but the party believes it has a credible chance to reclaim the majority in the next year’s cycle. Looking at the map, the DSCC is optimistic about holding onto its current “blue” seats, and taking down Republican incumbents in Illinois and Wisconsin.
From there, the map gets just a little trickier for Dems. New Hampshire and Ohio are likely host competitive contests, as is Pennsylvania. But the majority may very well hinge on the open Senate race in Florida, where Sen. Marco Rubio (R) is giving up his seat after one term to run for president.
Democratic officials have rallied behind Rep. Patrick Murphy (D), a moderate Miami congressman who fares pretty well in early general-election polling. The DSCC, hoping to clear the field, officially endorsed Murphy soon after he got into the race.
But as the Miami Herald reported, Murphy will have a primary challenger after all.
The 2016 Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate in Florida just got interesting.U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, the liberal firebrand whose unpredictability enthralls progressives and worries moderates, announced Thursday that he will run against the more moderate U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy…. Grayson, a 57-year-old from Orlando, is known for his raucous style. In 2009, he described a proposed GOP health care plan as ‘if you do get sick, die quickly.’ More recently, he called a Tampa Bay Times reporter a ‘sh—— robot’ for questioning his offshore hedge funds.”
Commenting on his rival, Grayson said of Murphy this morning, “He is really a Republican pretending to be a Democrat.”
Politico characterized this as a “nightmare” scenario for Democrats. Indeed, the DSCC issued a 61-word statement this morning about the primary fight, praising Patrick Murphy, and ignoring Grayson’s candidacy altogether.
The far-right Club for Growth announced late yesterday that it’s going to air ads in support of Grayson, seeing him as the easier Democrat to beat next November, and Roll Call reported this morning that Republican officials are “gleeful” and “elated” about the Democratic fight.
What’s less clear is how this is likely to play out. Murphy’s Democratic critics aren’t wrong – he really is more moderate than much of the party, even donating to Mitt Romney’s 2007 presidential campaign. Of course, Grayson’s critics aren’t wrong, either – he really is an unapologetic, progressive firebrand who may struggle in a statewide race.
What is clear, however, is that their primary confrontation will very likely be the roughest Democratic fight of the election cycle.