Patrick Murphy provides a playbook for Florida Democrats success

This week we learned what has been rumored for two months now – that Congressman Patrick Murphy, one of only eleven Democrats sitting in a Congressional Seat won by Mitt Romney in 2012 will not be a top target for the national GOP. The NRCC  released its list of  national targets earlier this week and FL-18  was missing. How did this happen and what lessons can be taken from it?

The Republicans pinned their hopes on attracting a top-tier challenger to Murphy knowing the district particularly in an off-year election may even be more hospitable for them. But the GOP didn’t count on Murphy’s strength both locally and in Washington. What Murphy developed was an independent brand quickly which froze the interest of those top-tier potential challengers on the Treasure Coast or in Palm Beach County. At the same time the race began to attract multiple marginal candidates the most well-known being former State Rep. Carl Domino whose record of electoral under-performance (even when winning) is legendary locally.

Murphy’s efforts complicated the Republicans quest for a viable challenger.  He came out of the box as the number one freshman fundraiser in 2013 raising over a million in his first six months in office. He cultivated relationship with those who matter in Washington while tirelessly working hard to secure his base at home.  At the same time, Murphy established a personal identity as a bipartisan moderate and a champion on local issues including environmental ones. In an area that favors Republicans but has a long history of supporting moderate GOPers from Congress down to the  County Commission and School Board, Murphy positioned himself perfectly for the district. His voting record is probably to the left of much of the district, but on important local issues he has been engaged in a way many other Democrats in the delegation aren’t. Additionally, he has mixed some more conservative votes into his record which has helped solidify his bipartisan reputation.

All of this does not mean Murphy is out of the woods yet. A rough Democratic year would give whomever emerges from the six-way Republican primary an outside shot at a victory. But fundraising for the Republican candidates has been poor and Murphy has continued to work hard in his reelection knowing he cannot take anything for granted. In order to put Murphy’s district performance into context the Democrats at the State House and State Senate are likely this cycle to leave every single seat as Republican as Murphy’s unopposed or contested by second and third tier challengers who will not be helped by the party.

Should presumptive Democratic nominee Charlie Crist, a friend of Murphy’s run decently here, the Congressman should have no reelection worries. Crist’s views on environmental issues align nicely with the district and hopefully he can help turnaround what was a decline in Democratic vote in Martin County between 2008 and 2012. Crist is unlikely to carry the 18th District unless he wins the state in a landslide. But Murphy does not need him to carry the district, just to run respectably enough to where he does not drag the Democratic number down.

Murphy’s playbook is one that should be replicated by Florida Democrats running in marginal or GOP leaning districts. Work hard, dedicate yourself to local issues rather than partisanship and  keep your eye on what really matters. Democrats could do with more like Murphy in tough districts.


  1. He’s a closet republican a former GOPer like Crist. We need a real dem in that seat!!!


    1. not true. He’s a pretty great guy. we’re not easy in the treasure coast – many of us are independent or no party and issue voters. we have two issues. one is the lagoon and the other is the train. patrick murphy has come thru on both. He had a hearing dc re the lagoon with our locals participating. it was amazing. Carl Domino doesn’t even know where the indian river lagoon is. Patrick is an expert in all things Indian RIver Lagoon. This year we have a water platform of people who have worked hard for this issue. Without clean water we are screwed.
      I have had a page for almost 2 years called River of Light. Our job was to accurately document the issues with the water. I have been videotaping all events (Im a doc filmmaker) an creating short teachable moments. We just started doing “ten minutes with tiki” and congressman murphy agreed to do our first one – i may not agree with everything but he knows this issue as well as the rest of us and has fought very hard.


  2. Blue Dog Dem · · Reply

    He is a perfect democrat for that district


  3. Concerned Democrat · · Reply

    another republican lite.

    shameful article.


  4. PublicEd · · Reply

    No its just that the Rs are happy wi th him because on the major issues he votes with them and they know its a mixed district. His staffers should not be working on campaigns on federal time by the way. Watch out for Baby boy Johnson.


  5. Purity, purity…..some of you folks sound exactly like the reverse spectrum of the Tea Party nuts! If you’re not 100% with us you must really be on the OTHER side! So you’d rather have Allen West representing the 18th in Congress?


  6. Mark Lynn · · Reply

    Congrats to Murphy for tentively securing a district where we should have been competitive since the 90’s. He has succeeded where Tim Mahoney failed (a wasted opportunity). If Patrick survives this year, he’ll be around for awhile. Possibly future U.S. Senate material.


  7. He is taking money from all the right people, big oil, big ag, big finance, green energy, unions, social activists. He is going to be a great politician. He stacks the special interest money for both sides of the aisle, and no Republican can match his take. When you have the environmentalists and the oil industry and agriculture endorsing you, you can’t lose.


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