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ICYMI: Democrats Zero in on Florida and Texas Senate Races After Manchin’s Retirement [The Messenger]

The Messenger: Democrats Zero in on Florida and Texas Senate Races After Manchin’s Retirement 
By Dan Merica
November 21, 2023

  • The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee publicly argued that their path to holding the majority included races in Texas and Florida.

  • National Democrats will step up their involvement in each contest in the coming months, primarily because both Cruz and Scott are the unusual incumbents who are less popular in polling than generic Republicans in their respective states. 
  • Democrats tasked with keeping control of the Senate have begun to compile considerable opposition research on the two GOP incumbents – with a special focus on Scott and the economic plan he released in 2022 that suggested sunsetting programs like Medicare and Social Security.
  • “In both Florida and Texas, Republicans have incredibly unpopular and unlikable incumbents who have turned off voters of every political persuasion with their self-serving political agenda,” said David Bergstein, communications director at the Democratic committee.

  • “Our job is to hold the seats that we have and to take advantage of every realistic offensive opportunity that we have. And we see a terrific opportunity to flip Republican seats in both Texas and Florida.”
  • Bergstein said both Scott and Cruz have “unique” vulnerabilities, far different than most Republicans, and that Democrats believe a presidential year with “a higher number of voters participating” than midterm cycles will mean the “electorate will be more favorable for Democrats.”
  • Allred’s campaign believes his unique profile as a former football player at Baylor University and in the NFL, along with his proven ability to win competitive elections and a notably “anti-Beto campaign” strategy – a reference to the distinctly nationalized race that former Rep. Beto O’Rourke ran against Cruz in 2018 – is a winning combination. 
  • But their race will likely be as much about Cruz as it is about his challenger…Allred’s campaign plans to use that profile to paint the senator as a self-aggrandizing politician who is more interested in his fame on the right than delivering for his state.
  • “Ted Cruz has failed Texans time and time again, by opposing capping the cost of insulin, leading the effort to overturn the 2020 election results, and abandoning his state in a time of crisis,” Hutchinson said, mixing policy and personal attacks against the senator. “Ted Cruz has shown he is focused only on promoting his podcasts and book sales.”
  • Allred is likely to be a fundraising darling. Allred raised $4.7 million in the third quarter of 2023, more than just over $3 million Cruz raised, although his campaign account was not the only vehicle the senator raised money into.

  • “The path to protecting the Senate majority runs through Florida, and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell is ready to retire Rick Scott this cycle,” said Kate Letzler Moore, the Florida Democrat’s campaign manager.

  • “From his plan to raise taxes on the middle class to his vote for a national abortion ban, Floridians know that Rick Scott is a self-serving fraud who has consistently put his own extreme agenda before the needs of working families.”
  • In Florida, the attacks on Scott are as much policy-based as they are personal.
  • Democrats in Florida plan to make Scott’s plan “12 Point Plan to Rescue America” a center point of their campaign, believing it will turn off voters in Florida the way it hurt Republicans in 2022.

  • The Democratic Senate committee, according to an aide, is actively stockpiling video of Scott touting his plan, along with commentary about the proposal, that could then be used in paid advertising throughout the cycle.

  • Democrats also plan to use Republicans’ bashing of Scott’s plan, including Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell saying it was “just a bad idea” and adding that he believed “it will be a challenge for [Scott] to deal with this in his own re-election in Florida, a state with more elderly people than any other state.”
  • Internal polling from Democrats in Florida backs up this strategy: The surveys have found a tight race between Scott and Mucarsel-Powell and significant potency in the attacks around Scott’s plan for Social Security and Medicare.
  • There will be positive messaging about Mucarsel-Powell – an immigrant from Ecuador, her campaign believes she can connect with Spanish-speaking voters in ways different than candidates before her – but conversations with operatives in the state made clear this would be a campaign focused on Scott’s vulnerabilities.
  • “Rick Scott has never fought an election in a presidential year. He has never had to deal with presidential turnout,” said Joshua Karp, a top consultant for the Mucarsel-Powell campaign, who, like others, noted Scott has only ever won by around 1 percentage point. “Rick Scott has had a very lucky political career and 2024 challenges him as a politician in ways he has never had to face.”
  • Republicans acknowledge there are several unknowns in the Scott race, like the fact the governor has never dealt with presidential-level turnout. But the most worrying may be that Democrats are working to get a pro-abortion ballot measure on the 2024 ballot in Florida, something that could lead to increased engagement and turnout among Democrats and independents, something that concerns Republicans.

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