TO: Interested Parties
FROM: Tom Lopach, Executive Director
DATE: July 9, 2015
RE: Florida Republicans Brace For A Bloody Primary
Florida is a reliable swing state in every election year at every level, and 2016 is no different. But as the Florida Senate race takes shape, one thing stands out – Republicans are about to endure one of the most damaging, costly, and overall nasty primaries in recent memory.
A second Florida Republican has thrown his hat into the ring in an attempt to win the Florida GOP nomination, bringing the number of total expected Republicans in the primary to a whopping 4. Tea Party darling Ron DeSantis has already declared, businessman Todd Wilcoxannounced yesterday, and absentee Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera as well as Congressman Jeff Miller are expected to enter the race soon.
This sideshow of out-of-touch candidates exists after four of the Republicans’ top picks for the seat took a pass. Republicans begged but weren’t able to convince Marco Rubio to stay in the Senate race despite desperate pleas, and soon thereafter Jeff Atwater, Pam Bondi andWill Weatherford all declined to run.
And it’s clear these leftover candidates are second-tier. DeSantis and Miller’s extremist voting records are unpalatable with a statewide audience. Lopez-Cantera has largely ignored his day job and will enter the race weighed down by a heavy load of ethical baggage.
GOP Strategists In Full-Fledged Panic
And Republican strategists are rightly terrified of their primary that seems ready to spin out of control. In one poll of Florida insiders, a GOP strategist lamented that their primary “is becoming a clown show.” News outlets are reporting that the intraparty fight “has the potential makings of a political bloodbath” and have described the situation as “the Florida GOP’s Worst-Case Scenario.” A former NRSC official put the primary woes simply by saying “It’s a problem.”
And it’s not hard to understand why. Almost immediately after he jumped in the race, DeSantis had picked up endorsements from some of the establishment’s sworn enemies – Club for Growth, Senate Conservatives Fund, Citizens United, the Madison Project and Freedomworks. DC insiders must be sweating after these groups recently made it clear that they plan to focus their money and attention on open-seat contests like Florida. Looks for these groups to spend big money for their guy, which will lead to a big headache for the establishment.
Patrick Murphy’s Strength Is Undeniable – Even By GOP
Meanwhile, Democrats have a strong candidate in Patrick Murphy who just yesterday announced a major second quarter of fundraising that totaled $1.4 million raised with $2.5 million cash on hand. Murphy has been lauded as a rising star in the party, a fresh face who has maintained a laser-like focus on representing the best interests of his constituents. His work to protect the environment, preserve Social Security and Medicare, and ensure women’s access to healthcare give him a strong foundation to run statewide and appeal to voters of all stripes.
But perhaps the clearest sign of Murphy’s strength? Republicans are terrified to run against him. The far-right, Club for Growth, which has endorsed DeSantis, has already gone on air to attack Murphy. The Club’s willingness to spend money on air so early leaves no doubt that Murphy is the strongest Democrat and the one they fear the most in a general election.
The extremist, scandal-plagued and neophyte Republicans who make up the expected primary field will leave the ultimate nominee badly-damaged and unprepared to face a Democratic candidate as strong as Patrick Murphy is proving himself to be.