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Alan Grayson and Debbie Wasserman Schultz Resource Wasters for GOP

April 17, 2014 - 6:00pm
Even as Republicans look to expand their majority in Congress, they could fall into the trap of mining for fools gold, mistaking conservative passion for voter discontent with two liberal members of the U.S. House.

Republicans would love to knock off Alan Grayson and Debbie Wasserman Schultz in November. But both of those incumbents have done well with fundraising while their Republican opponents simply havent kept pace. With both of them sitting in very secure Democratic districts, Grayson and Wasserman Schultz head to November with near insurmountable advantages.

Grayson loves to antagonize Republicans. Back in October, he compared the tea party to the Ku Klux Klan and, in 2010, compared the GOP to the Nazis. In his unsuccessful bid for a second term in 2010, Grayson lashed out at Republican Dan Websters evangelical faith, calling him Taliban Dan and mocking his religion.

Even though he lost to Webster in 2010 by 18 percent, Grayson quickly bounced back to win a newly drawn congressional seat in 2012 which was much more of a Democratic safehold. Granted 2012 was a Democratic year but Grayson impressed with his big win, destroying Republican Todd Long, 62.5 percent to 37.5 percent. By the end of March, Grayson had brought in $1.4 million -- $1.2 million from individuals -- and had around $380,500 on hand. As one of the wealthiest members of Congress, Grayson should face no problem adding to his coffers and he can always rely on a national network of liberal fans.

Graysons three Republican foes simply havent kept pace. Carol Platt raised more than $168,000 from individuals and relied on almost $31,800 of her own funds to help her campaign. But Platt has been burning through her cash with $34,530 on hand at the end of March. Jorge Bonilla had more on hand -- almost $39,450 -- but has raised only $88,303 in the campaign so far. Peter Vivaldi was even less impressive, bringing in $24,466 and holding on to less than $1,500 when the first quarter ended. None of them have shown themselves to be able to compete with Grayson in the money chase despite Republican anger toward the congressman.

Supporters of the three Republicans insist there will be some factors coming into play in November that can help turn things around. They argue that a Hispanic candidate could help cut into Graysons stronghold in the large and growing Puerto Rican population in this Central Florida district. Pointing to 2010, they say Republicans show up to vote more than Democrats during off-year elections. Graysons fiery temper and strong personality could always blow up on him.

But these are long shots at best. Grayson is in firm control of this district where Democrats have a strong edge over Republicans in party registration.

Wasserman Schultz has an even higher profile than Grayson, serving as chairwoman of the DNC. But Wasserman Schultz also has an even bigger advantage when it comes to Democrats over Republicans in her district. She doesnt have Graysons wealth but she can also rely on donors all over the country and is much higher in the Democratic pecking order than her colleague.

By the end of March, Wasserman Schultz had raised more than $1.35 million and had almost $557,000 on hand. Having cruised to victory for most of her political life, taking more than 70 percent in elections, Wasserman Schultz suffered a setback in 2010 when she took only 60 percent while Republican Karen Harrington garnered 38 percent. Despite a bunch of noise from conservatives, Wasserman Schultz did better in 2012 after redistricting, expanding her lead over Harrington to 27.5 percent in the rematch.

Joe Kaufman, who lost to Harrington in the primary last time out, is back again. While the FEC is still itemizing most of his funds -- almost $297,775 actually -- hes brought in more than $112,000 from individuals so far and had $135,778 in the bank by the end of March. Republican primary rival Juan Garcia raised almost $46,600 by the end of March but only had $15,229 on hand. Republicans are already at a disadvantage in this deep blue district and Wasserman Schultzs fundraising lead only adds to her advantage.

Republicans have their chances to defeat Democratic congressmen in Florida with Joe Garcia and the increasingly secure Patrick Murphy in their sights. The GOP can make a lot of noise against Grayson and Wasserman Schultz -- but the votes and the money simply arent there. These two Democrats should face few problems skating to re-election come November.

Tallahassee-based political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis exclusively for Sunshine State News.

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