Al Lawson surging in Congressional District 2

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Three weeks ago we downgraded former Senate Minority Leader Al Lawson’s chances of defeating Congressman Steve Southerland in the Tallahassee based 2nd Congressional District. But since then Lawson has surged more more quickly and quietly than just about any Congressional candidate in the country. The  local popularity of Lawson, combined with a stronger than expected Obama presence locally has helped remake this race. Even with a Republican comeback in other parts of the country post first Presidential debate, this area is going in the other direction the last few weeks.

Southerland was fortunate he did not face Lawson two years ago. Against Allen Boyd and with a big Republican wave at his back, Southerland cruised to victory by 13 percentage points. It is no secret that towards the end of his congressional tenure, Boyd didn’t work particularly hard in the district, and was dogged with losing the support of many Democratic activists and leaders in the Tallahassee area. Lawson barely lost the 2010 Primary dampening Democratic enthusiasm in the fall election. Enthusiasm would have been further dampened this fall if State Rep. Leonard Bembry (D-Madison) had been the nominee instead of Lawson.

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The NRCC sensing Southerland’s  recent vulnerability has dumped $150,000 in new TV ads into the Tallahassee and Panama City media markets, to try and bolster the incumbents chances. What the Republicans face in Lawson is a proven local vote getter among blacks and whites, in both rural areas and Tallahassee. I’d expect Lawson to run poorly in Panama City/Bay County, but to run ahead of the rest of the Democratic ticket in most of the rural areas of CD-2.  This past week St Pete Polls conducted a survey in CD-2 which indicated the race is a dead heat. This is remarkable considering St Pete Polls methodology and sampling tends to favor Republican candidates.

In the race for Representative in Congress from District 2 do you support Republican Steve Southerland or Democrat Al Lawson?

Responses: 450 (± 4.6% margin of error at a 95% confidence level) Steve Southerland: 45.7%   Al Lawson: 46.5%   Undecided: 7.8%

Lawson’s victory in the August 14th Primary put this race back into play. Had Bembry, the favorite of Boyd’s allies and many other establishment Democrats been nominated, chances are Southerland would have strolled to another victory and the resources being spent by the GOP here could have been used to target Democrats in other seats.

Whether or not Lawson completes his comeback is yet to be seen. But he has certainly done his part to help the Democrats by tying up Republican resources where they did not think they would need to.

Cross-posted by Kartik Krishnaiyer of the Political Hurricane.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.