Could Scott Fuhrman, challenging Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in Florida’s 27th Congressional District, be this year’s Tim Mahoney? And is there a path for Fuhrman to become 2016’s “accidental” member of Congress that doesn’t involve Ros-Lehtinen having a Mark Foley-like implosion?
Increasingly, the answer to both questions keeps inching toward “yes.” The Cook Political Report recently included CD 27 in its list of 45 seats that moved from the “safe Republican” column to “likely Republican.”
POLITICO likewise featured Fuhrman in an Aug. 19 story about Florida House Republicans’ anxieties over the political risk they face having failed to fund Zika research and response before adjourning for summer recess. Today’s Miami Herald also mentioned the Ros-Lehtinen/Fuhrman race in the context of Zika.
While his personal connection to the Zika crisis — in the form of his six-months-pregnant wife, Lindsay — may be getting Fuhrman’s name in print recently, Zika alone is not taking down a much beloved, 25-year incumbent like Ros-Lehtinen. Mosquitoes aren’t going to force Ileana into an early retirement, but a troll could.
Ros-Lehtinen probably entered the 2016 cycle feeling — in the words of Larry David — pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty good. Obama, the only Democrat in generations to win a majority of Florida Cubans, was no longer eligible to run; her longtime ally, Jeb Bush, had amassed an insane war chest and looked like a lock for the nomination. Little Marco was going to fizzle early in his quixotic crusade against his old mentor, Jeb, and eventually run for re-election, helping with election-critical Cuban turnout in Miami-Dade County.
Only the last of those three things came to pass the way Ros-Lehtinen had hoped.
Instead, she finds herself on the ballot alongside a man who she’s been forced to say she’ll “never” vote for; a man whose bigoted rhetoric is driving Hispanic voters to Hillary Clinton in outrageous margins. A Public Religion Research Institute poll of Hispanic voters nationally, released today, showed Trump getting a mere 18 percent of that vote, 10 points less than Romney in 2012.
A May poll of CD 27 showed Clinton winning Ros-Lehtinen’s district by a whopping 23 points. Four years ago, Obama won it in the low 50s, and she won with 60 percent, spending over $1 million against two candidates who spent a combined $0.
Maybe a combination of her longevity and respect in Miami, her #NeverTrump status, and #LittleMarco making ticket splitting fashionable among Cuban Republicans, will save Ileana this November.
Maybe she can defy demography and partisanship and a 20-plus-point Hillary Clinton victory in the 27th.
Maybe the NRCC will have money to spend bailing out an incumbent who they never calculated in a million years would be vulnerable.
And maybe Scott Fuhrman becomes the accidental congressman from Florida’s 27th Congressional District.
The cliché that, “stranger things have happened,” is perhaps more true in this election cycle, in this state, than it has ever been before.