Earlier this week, POLITICO speculated that the Democrats have a “narrow” path to recapture the U.S. Senate next year, which appears to be a much friendlier year in terms of victories compared to 2014 (when they lost nine seats) or 2018, when they must defend seats in red states like Montana, North Dakota and West Virginia. One the biggest states up for grabs at this early juncture is Florida, where incumbent Marco Rubio will not be on the ballot.
The field is still being assembled on both sides at this moment in time. A fresh face in Todd Wilcox entered the GOP race on Wednesday, while the Democratic race is expected to get a whole lot spicier if Alan Grayson ultimately gets in the race on Thursday, as is being heavily speculated.
But while it’s way too early by any objective measure to calculate who might be the favorite to capture the seat, it’s not stopping the National Republican Senate Committee to already begin spinning that Florida is looking good for the GOP next year.
In a blog post written on their website by National Republican Senate Committee (NRSC) Executive Director Ward Baker titled, “The New Senate Majority is Here To Stay,” he writes this:
Republicans’ performance in years past demonstrate the historic success of Republicans statewide in Florida. Republicans have won the last four gubernatorial elections and Senator Rubio won the seat in 2010 by 19% of the vote. Furthermore, Florida Republicans are coming off an extremely successful 2014 cycle. In addition to Governor Rick Scott’s victory, the three other Republican members of the Florida Cabinet won reelection with margins ranging from 13% – 17.8%. Republicans picked up six seats to win a super-majority in the Florida House of Representatives as well. Republicans also hold 17 of the 27 U.S. House seats in Florida.
As the Rothenberg Gonzales Political Report recently pointed out, the last Democrat to win a Senate race not named Bill Nelson or Bob Graham was Lawton Chiles in 1982. The DSCC’s anointed candidate, Patrick Murphy, has little name ID outside of his home district and discontent among progressives could fuel a bitter primary in a state with 10 media markets. DNC Chair and Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz specifically mentioned a number of Florida mayors as potential alternatives to Murphy. Also, the Florida Democratic Progressive Caucus is urging controversial Rep. Alan Grayson to enter the race.
Republicans won open Senate races in 2004 and 2010 and we’re confident that we will hold the seat in 2016. Republicans will have several options to choose from. Rep. Ron DeSantis announced his candidacy in May and Lieutenant Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera and Rep. Jeff Miller appear to be close to making a decision regarding the race.
Recent Polling: Public polling in Florida demonstrates two things conclusively: that none of the Republican or Democratic candidates are well known, and that Barack Obama approval rating is significantly inverted.
One area where Baker is on point: If as predicted Grayson gets into the race on Thursday, there will indeed probably be a “bitter primary” within the Florida Democratic Party, just as the establishment appeared to be coalescing around South Florida U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy.