Do the concerns about Patrick Murphy add up?

Many in the progressive community are talking about Congressman Patrick Murphy’s potential US Senate campaign as a problematic one. Murphy’s voting record is controversial to many on the left – though perhaps it shouldn’t be. After all Murphy represents one of Florida’s wealthiest districts, one where both Mitt Romney and Rick Scott carried a plurality (but not a majority) of voters. The Congressman also has worked hard on local issues and his efforts led to the GOP nominating former State Rep. Carl Domino in 2014. Domino is one of the all-time duds in south Florida electoral politics having under-performed in just about every election he’s been on the ballot in since an embarrassing showing in a 2000 State House primary where he outspent his opposition 7-1 but finished 50 points behind the winner, future CFO Jeff Atwater. Domino is such a bad candidate he almost handed over a gerrymandered Republican State House district to the Democrats on two different occasions in the 2000’s, and then got swamped in a 2012 primary as he tried to return to the body in a different seat.

So Murphy deserves credit. He scared off any viable Republican and drew a GOP opponent that perhaps most readers of this blog would have beaten in a competitive election. But does that translate to a statewide race?

Murphy’s moderation probably does not make a difference in a general election. Democrats as we have pointed out before have time and again nominated moderates for statewide office, yet have managed to lose 19 of the last 20 statewide elections where Bill Nelson was not on the ballot. During this same period, the Democratic Presidential nominee has won the state THREE TIMES running as a liberal (This is counting Al Gore’s result in 2000 as a victory). Statewide leaders in the Democratic Party have consistently talked about the need to nominate moderate candidates to be competitive in general elections though ZERO empirical evidence exists that moderate nominees perform better than liberal ones. Only once in the period did the Democrats nominate an out-and-out liberal for statewide office, Dan Gelber for Attorney General in 2010 (Kendrick Meek’s candidacy was undercut by Charlie Crist’s Independent candidacy so his nomination is not really relevant). Otherwise, the Democrats nominated moderates or those who tried to play moderate once running in a general.

But at the same time, Murphy does not have the baggage of some of the moderates who have run previously. Jim Davis had a ten-year Congressional and eight-year State House voting record which included among other things opposition to compensation for the families of the Rosewood victims. Betty Castor had the Sami Al-Arian controversy to overcome and Charlie Crist had Florida’s most negative campaign since Pepper-Smathers in 1950 backed by a complicit media up against him.

Murphy’s voting record is one thing but his style is another. Light on substance and fire, he represents the types of milk toast candidates, like Alex Sink, Bill McBride and Jim Davis. Democratic moderates are a problem not only because they are moderate but because they generally lack the type of fire-in-the-belly to take the fight to the conservatives and Republicans. Time and again, when Florida voters have been given a choice between voting for something and voting for nothing, they choose something. Democratic candidates who have taken a mish-mash of somewhat inconsistent positions on issues have almost always lost to more disciplined and ideologically pure Republicans. In a “purple” state this is telling.

The term “moderate voter” comes from political professionals and general describes those who work within politics. Most voters who are not engaged in the everyday back and forth of lobbying or making political deals vote on one or two issues and tend to be either liberal or conservative. Even if voters self identify  “moderates,” in polling or focus groups chances are very good they vote based on one or two issues where they are either clearly conservative or clearly liberal.

This is particularly true in midterm elections — Lower voter turnout in midterm elections among Democrats from my vantage point can be traced largely if not wholly to a party brand that does not identify with the values it campaigns on during Presidential years. The party’s messaging also has consistently failed to mirror the voices of leading progressive groups. This is a problem as well on the national level, where the corporate bent of the Democratic Party is worse than it is here in Florida. But Murphy will be running in a Presidential year, where at least theoretically an exciting national campaign should turn out Democratic voters. So this might work in Murphy’s ultimate favor.

Murphy is unlikely to excite most Democrats in the state, but in theory represents another “safe” consultant/operative driven campaign. Sometimes, these safe candidates win in other states but here in Florida, time and again we have seen these or the sorts of campaigns and candidates that lose on the Democratic line.  Maybe that has less to do with the candidates themselves and more to do with a party infrastructure that is largely non-existent and far from permanent even when partially built for an election cycle.

So when it comes down to it, Murphy represents a perfect Florida Democratic nominee – non-controversial, excellent on paper, backed by important consultants, able to “compete in North Florida” ( a region if considered between the Apalachicola and Suwanee Rivers represents less than 4% of the state’s population) and unlikely to rock the boat. The problem is these candidates keep losing statewide. Perhaps Murphy will defy the odds and be different? The numbers may say yes, but logic and history might point us in another direction. Only time will give us clarity and a hint at the answer.

19 comments

  1. Patrick Murphy is a Republican corporate state big business insider. He voted for the XL pipeline and is for fracking. The Democratic Party has lost its principles and leadership to big money.

  2. The Observer · · Reply

    He would go down in flames just as Charlie Crist did. Real Democrats would see him as another repackaged Republican opportunist. Let him step up and show support for the President and then he can call himself a Democrat.

    1. dianecbrown · · Reply

      OMG! Crist lost by 60K votes out of how many millions? That is not exactly going down in flames.

  3. J. Scott Gaillard · · Reply

    Are there liable liberal/progressive alternative(s)?

  4. J. Scott Gaillard · · Reply

    “viable” rather

  5. Murphy is untested but his environmental stands and pro choice make him good. He’s the only one who can win a statewide race beyond Gwen Graham who isn’t running.

  6. I wouldn’t rule out Crist just yet. We know that Pretty-boy Marco is going down in flames in any effort for the prez nomination; I think, at any rate, Floridians rue the day they sent this “boy” to do a man’s job to Wash DC. The arrogant puffery of these Republicrooks is jaw-dropping!

  7. Florida voter · · Reply

    how about Murphy vacating a seat that will just flip back? Shouldn’t that anger people?

  8. Ask murphy about wolf of Wall Street! I will vote for Atwater! And I am a D

  9. broward person · · Reply

    florida squeeze guys, do you even think nelson would have won against scott?? The way the election dynamic in 14 shaped up i don’t think so.

  10. Murphy our best chance. He’d be the favorite over any republican in a presidential year.

  11. Do you know Patrick? It amazes me that you think the issue with the water the discharges are local issues. This is probably why we will be decimated with discharges forever, the everglades will decimated, the tree islands will disappear, the Florida Bay will be destroyed and salt water intrusion and sea level rise will come to Miami. Patrick has been our champion on the issue even having everyone go to DC to testify. People are mad at him because of some of this votes but he has been a champion for the Indian River Lagoon. He may look milk toasty but he certainly isn’t. Having said that I don’t want him to run for senate because we need him as our congressman. WIth out him we are even more screwed. Right now our legislators are happy to see us die in a pile of toxic waste. He was kind enough to do an interview for our RIver of Light Page.
    https://www.facebook.com/SaintLucieRiverofLight
    We also have 13,000 signatures on a petition to stop the discharges. He didn’t have to do this for us but he is so dedicated to the lagoon and he supports all of us as we fight this fight.

  12. dianecbrown · · Reply

    Kertik, your logic escapes me. And I cannot figure out the point of your article unless it is to confuse and discourage. You say Murphy’s “moderation probably does not make a difference in a general election”; then you say Dems have time and again nominated moderates for statewide office and lost 19 of the last 20 statewide elections, and that Murphy represents the types of milk toast candidates who lost. But then you flip – your final analysis is that “Murphy represents a perfect Florida Democratic nominee.” Really? Your own historical rendering does not support this finding.

    Why should we pick a candidate based on possibly” defy[ing] the odds”? Why not have a candidate that actually has a chance of winning, like the liberal presidential nominees that you also cited?

    Perhaps if we replace the “progressive” label and policies with “populist,” we could win some elections. Florida voter demographics are changing by leaps and bounds to people who will benefit from and support populist ideas. We also need to start identifying Dem candidates for what they really are. Murphy is a member of the Cong. New Democrat Party and votes conservative. There is nothing moderate about voting for Keystone or gutting Dodd-Frank. But that is okay – just leave him where he is to hold on to the congressional seat, and Dems will may get a few good votes out of him. But we need a populist candidate for senate where the power is.

    If voters who care more about people then bullets want to change the course of the Tea Party-Republican running the country, i.e., save the safety net programs and provide health care to all, they must get out and work for it by electing the leaders who will. If Crist can persuade Dems he has truly evolved, he is the best candidate for senate at this point. But it will require the entire Party to get behind him, including the Nan Rich loyalists who pilloried Crist in 2014.

    And, Kartik, to this end, no Dem should ever use the anti-Crist term – “Republican-turned Independent-turned Democrat,” which purposefully painted him as wishy-washy, or worse, a lying opportunist. Maybe he just evolved! Maybe he, like many other Republicans decided the radical GOP no longer represented his values.

    1. ResearchJunkie · · Reply

      This might have something to do with it…see the contact information… it looks like someone is running Murphy’s campaign: Candidate for US Senate in Florida is seeking a Fundraiser/Finance Director. The person in this position is responsible for developing a fundraising plan through the 2016 election, must have excellent communication skills, be comfortable on the phone, ability to perform donor prospecting and research task, and familiarity with NGP or other systems for recording and tracking contributions. Ideal candidate has experience working on a Gubernatorial or Congressional level race, is well organized, creative, has experience with crowd sourcing models, and is able to work full-time.

      Responsibilities include, but not limited to:

      • Report daily to campaign manager and general consultant

      • Manage follow up on all correspondence and pledges.

      • Make fundraising calls to donors during candidate call time.

      • Plan and execute fundraising events.

      •Execute donor research and find new donor lists.

      • Responsible for direct mail operations for fundraising and helping with
      online fundraising.

      • Support other campaign operations as necessary.
      • Supervise staff/interns/volunteers to assist with data entry and other tasks and work with compliance staff.

      QUALIFICATIONS:

      • Previous fundraising and campaign finance experience.

      • Knowledge of NGP, ActBlue and Excel.

      • Must have strong written and verbal communication skills.

      • Creativity, initiative, and able to function as part of a team.

      Please send resume and contact information for three references to kkfla737@yahoo.com

  13. just an fyi. During the election some friends of Carl Domino printed thousands of signs with a photo of Patrick and President Obama and put them every where. It was suppose to draw out in inner racists of martin and st lucie. Only issue is the dems loved the signs and were stealing them and taking them home for their lawns.
    Brian Crowly and Michael Williams on “to the pont” today really like him.

  14. If you want to dispose of Rubio, you have to fight fire with fire. Alan Grayson for U.S. Senate.

    1. dianecbrown · · Reply

      I like his fire (and his cowboy boots) but does he have state-wide appeal?

  15. No question Grayson can win. Real simple. Run as a populist and you win. In the “tsunami” of 2014, the progressive caucus only lost one member, and he just plain ran a lousy campaign. For god’s sake give the people what they’re looking for — and not what big business is looking for — and you win, so long as the candidate is bright (check), not afraid to take principled stands on populist issues (check), unafraid to call “bullshit” (check), savvy enough to form coalitions around issues across party lines and get solid legislation passed (check), have more charisma than a damp dish towel (check) and show the ability to raise huge amounts of money from sources outside of big business (triple check). Grayson can win. We need Grayson to win. We need leadership that’s focused and driven to rebuild the middle class, raise all boats, and respect all races, colors, creeds, and sexual orientations. That’s Alan Grayson.

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