Patrick Murphy should be mad at the Democratic Party…here’s why

Patrick Murphy- The golden boy in 2016 is a pariah in 2018 in classic Democratic Party style

In recent weeks, former Congressman and US Senate nominee Patrick Murphy has reappeared from the dead and has actively began floating the idea of a “fusion” ticket for Governor with former Republican Congressman David Jolly. Today we’re not going to asses the merits of such a ticket, because despite yesterday’s MSNBC appearance, the whole thing still seems a bit speculative.

Patrick Murphy’s rapid rise and even quicker fall from grace has a uniquely Florida Democratic Party feel to it – anoint the savior but when circumstances change and losses continue to mount, make the former golden boy toxic. This happens all the time in the world of the FDP, a party whose record in statewide elections this millennium is as bad as it gets having won less than 7% of races for Governor and Cabinet since 2000, in what is by any objective standard a purple state. Florida’s Democrats play politics based more on personality than any other factor. Winning and losing isn’t important, because quite frankly they never win when it really matters. Therefore everything they do tends to be based around local squabbles, controlling the flow of vendor contracts and dominating Democratic primaries so they can maintain the perception of having some power while never actually winning in November outside safe seats.

Florida Democrats have lost 20 of the last 21 statewide races where the party’s nominee wasn’t Bill Nelson. That’s an over 95% fail rate. Statistically such failure is difficult to achieve without some real effort, and Florida Democrats have a history of self-sabotage. The Murphy case seems no different.

Today, I reached out to a source close to Murphy who told me that it’s still a mystery why Florida Democrats abandoned Murphy during his 2016 US Senate Race after recruiting and touting him. Was it that he was “rich and white,” in an era where identity politics defines the Democratic Party (Not so coincidentally Florida’s Democrats as we’ve pointed out previously at TFS is doing worse with catholic voters than any time in recent memory)? Why would Democrats abandon a successful previous candidate in a reddish district but whose voting record may not have met all the left’s litmus tests but was pretty steadfast on some of the most important issues, the source asked me.

The historical record will show after being recruited by the DSCC, Patrick Murphy had strong institutional support in a primary he cruised to victory in and then was quickly abandoned around the time when Floridian’s were distracted by the potential arrival of Hurricane Matthew by both the state and national party who became accomplices in the reelection of Marco Rubio, who according to the American Conservative Union (ACU) had the second most conservative voting record in the US Senate between 2011 and 2015 (behind only Utah’s Mike Lee ). Murphy was far from a strong candidate but he also wasn’t any weaker than some of the other candidates for Senate the DSCC unwisely got behind. So why was he first propped up and then thrown overboard?

I’ve got my theories and they to this point haven’t been publicly floated but here goes…

The leaders of the Florida Democratic Party as well as the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee were terrified of Alan Grayson being nominated by the party, and appearing on the statewide ballot in a Presidential Election year. Grayson’s personality is volatile and he most certainly is polarizing. But those thoughts while valid were a cover story for a party whose desire to cut Grayson off at the knees was due to his inability to be controlled by party elites.

The establishment of the party also appears in hindsight to have had an unwritten deal with one-term Congresswoman and former lobbyist Gwen Graham, a Tallahassee-insider the party elites are comfortable with. Murphy having represented a similarly reddish district to Graham and having a better base to run from (southeast Florida) could have been a massive threat to Graham’s nomination in 2018, so disposing of him two years early served a very strategic purpose for the institutional establishment of the party – an establishment that has for almost two decades now maintained control of the riches and personal enrichment that come from being involved in partisan politics while accomplishing precious little in the way of success.

Killing Murphy off made it easier for the party to try and coalesce its support behind Graham.

So what the party and its allies did was very deviously prop up Murphy for the primary against Grayson, Pam Keith and others. The state party and its allied groups are very successful at controlling party primaries and nominating their preferred candidates. In fact, that is probably the only thing they do well, because as stated above they’ve got an awful record one that seems statistically improbable in such an evenly divided state. Once Murphy was cruising and Grayson began self-destructing, the young South Florida Congressman’s utility had been served. Coming out of the primary outwardly strong, Murphy’s 40 plus point primary win should have been an impetus under normal circumstances with a party that actually wanted to win the election to push him forward.

But suddenly, Murphy was no longer considered viable by those who make decisions as to targeting races. With Grayson eliminated, protecting Graham and the party’s succession plans became the priority. Murphy ended being folded up, the same way the Soviet Union in a secret agreement with the UK folded up the Greek communists in the Civil War that followed World War II – the US didn’t know the Greek Communists had been abandoned by Stalin so they kept spending money on propping up the Greek government and thinking they had beaten the Soviets in the first battle of the Cold War when they really hadn’t – similarly  for a few weeks, Republicans didn’t realize Murphy had been wholesale abandoned by the Democrats at all levels, from the national and state parties as well as allied groups. The failure to spend money on Murphy made the double-whammy of GOP money in Florida for Rubio and Presidential nominee Donald Trump even more effective. While Hillary Clinton lost Florida all by her own, folding up Murphy was an unwise decision but one that was likely made due to local considerations and the desire of many in the FDP establishment to open as clear a path as possible for Graham. Not only was Murphy no longer in office, but he was now a statewide loser whose viability could be questioned should he challenge Graham.

So here we are two years later. Murphy’s reputation among Democrats is shot while Graham is being propped up in any manner possible and in every way imaginable. The challenge from former Miami Beach Mayor Phillip Levine has large portion of the Tallahassee and state party establishment trembling. A whisper campaign has begun echoing all the familiar themes as to why the moderate Graham who is from Tallahassee must be nominated and Levine, who is Jewish and from South Florida must be rejected. Meanwhile, Murphy holds the ultimate trump card – his statewide name ID was elevated by the Democrats desire to take down Grayson and now he could potentially play spoiler. Some might even think that’s a certain degree of karma…

Patrick Murphy isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, particularly progressives. But it’s hard not to have at least some sympathy for some one thrust into a position they weren’t prepared for then torn down because suddenly they might represent a threat. This is the world of Florida Democrats in a nutshell.


  1. Victoria Olson · ·

    I guess the DNC woke up & saw the facts that Patrick Murphy is a useless asswipe yes boy. While in office he did absolutely nothing that was notable. Meanwhile Grayson who has brought 92 bills to the house in which many passed with bipartisan support the DNC won’t support claiming his behavior is volatile. Truth be told Grayson’s campaign is run on small donations & he won’t be “owned” by the DNC & their money. Grayson is a doer & the DNC are fools not to support him. Grayson is a Progressive and not owned by corporations he is a man for the people. Maybe this is why the centralist Democrats are losing their base. They refuse to come into the world not owned by corporations who are screwing America.


    1. You are assuming the leaders in the Dem Party want to win elections and make progressive change. I don’t believe that’s the agenda. The agenda is to maintain control of the party infrastructure for ego and monetary purposes. At least that’s the way it has long been in Florida, and of course during the 2016 cycle the DNC Chair was from Florida and very much reared in that style politics.


  2. Ron Baldwin · ·

    I recall there were stories that Murphy’s father promised to donate some millions to help his son’s campaign against Rubio. The Dem party “elites’ bought that story, and in addition they did not like Grayson. After Murphy won the primary with full help by the “elites” Murphy’s daddy went back on the promise of money..The “elites dropped Murphy and Rubio cruised to a win. The Florida and National Democrat “elites” are doomed to failure.


  3. I don’t necessarily agree with the premise of this, but I’m so happy to see you writing about state politics again. I’ve missed The Squeeze!


  4. Ruth Ann Eaddy · ·

    Alan Grayson’s bullying personality in the Trump era is not acceptable. Darren Soto’s service to his constituents will carry him thru the November election. Civility is now so important and it is in Darren Soto’s DNA.


  5. Victoria Olson · ·

    Ruth please tell me why you think Grayson has a bullying personality…Grayson has an A rating with environmental groups does Soto?


  6. Progressive Hero · ·

    Wow. A lot of times Kartik annoys me by beating around the bush and going 90% of the way then not closing the loop.

    This is brilliant and makes PERFECT SENSE.

    Kill Grayson, help Graham use and dispose Murphy.

    Who cares about losing. Losses are what the FDP does best!

    I think this is accurate.


  7. This sounds like a conspiracy theory except that knowing the party it all adds up. Incredible the lengths they go to.


  8. Ruth Ann Eaddy · ·

    Darren Soto has an A rating with the environmental groups.


  9. Fisher Fleming · ·

    I too heard that Murphy’s sudden necessity to the Florida Dems originated with his wealthy Republican father’s promise of a large donation. Even President Obama leapt in to attack Alan Grayson in the Senate primary, despite Murphy’s lack of any discernible accomplishment or progressive principles.

    It’s gotten so bad I feel we have effectively had a Republican takeover of the Democratic Party, particularly in Florida. If the donors are the same and the candidates are limited to conservatives (albeit some with a minority identity to utilize in a tokenistic way) what is “Democratic” about the party at this point?

    And it doesn’t look like the strategy is changing. Year after year, ineffectual, uninspiring candidates, often literal “converted” Republicans like Murphy are propped up one after the other, often losing, sometimes managing to get elected, but never pursuing any kind of liberal or progressive policy.

    I’m glad Grayson’s running again — he at least seems genuine compared to the conservative Pod People candidates. We’ll see if the knives come out for him again in the primary when the establishment realizes a non-Republican has slipped under the wire.


  10. Mark Lynn · ·

    Don’t forget that the race changed completely after Rubio jumped back in at the last minute. I think that event is what scared off the national Dems from the race. Instead of running for an open seat (where polls showed Murphy leading), now he faced an incumbent with near universal name recognition from his presidential campaign. I doubt there was any big conspiracy. You give the state Dem leaders too much credit. They frankly just aren’t that bright! Especially under Mrs. Barry Richard. Also, Murphy seemed to lose his mojo after the race changed. A flawless campaign he did NOT run. Still, I think he has a future, but running for guv at this point would kill it. He should be trying to recapture his old congressional seat, but didn’t go down that path.

    Liked by 1 person

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