Debbie Wasserman Schultz's Path Looks Clearer in Washington than Florida
Around the State
Speaking to Politico last week, Debbie Wasserman Schultz has thrown open the door to a future bid for higher office in Florida. But with one eye on replacing Nancy Pelosi to lead House Democrats, Wasserman Schultz could have a better chance of staying where she is than looking to move up the ladder.
Having passed on running for governor in 2014, Wasserman Schultz, the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), should be in excellent shape if she chooses to run for the U.S Senate in 2016, especially if Marco Rubio ends up on the Republican presidential ticket that year. Bill Nelson turns 76 in 2018 and Wasserman Schultz would be a favorite for her party’s nomination if her fellow Democrat retires. If Rick Scott wins a second term next year, Wasserman Schultz could run for the open governorship in 2018.
But Wasserman Schultz would be very vulnerable in the general election. South Florida liberals have had little luck when they match up against Republicans. By nominating Miami liberal Robert King High in 1966, Democrats paved the way for Claude Kirk to become the first Republican governor since Reconstruction. In more recent elections, South Florida liberals Dan Gelber and Kendrick Meek went nowhere in statewide contests.
At first glance, Wasserman Schultz’s hopes to lead congressional Democrats appear slim. Standing in her way to replace Pelosi is Steny Hoyer of Maryland. But Wasserman Schultz has the advantage of time on her side. She is only 46 while Pelosi is 73 and Hoyer is 74.
As chairwoman of the DNC and as chief Democratic whip, Wasserman Schultz has been able to aid newer members of the caucus with financial help and campaign resources. Wasserman Schultz also offers a bridge between the two rivals in the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries. Wasserman Schultz was a leading Hillary Clinton supporter in 2008 but she helped guide Barack Obama’s bid for a second term. If Clinton runs again in 2016, Wasserman Schultz should keep a prominent spot at the table.
Wasserman Schultz remains secure in her district, probably more so now than she had been before redistricting last year. Republicans continue to line up to challenge her but Wasserman Schultz represents a very safe Democrat district. Unlike her prospects at the state level, Wasserman Schultz shouldn’t have much to worry about to win re-election to the House.
Despite Hoyer standing in her way, all signs indicate Wasserman Schultz would have a better chance of leading House Democrats -- and perhaps becoming speaker of the House -- than becoming governor or winning a seat in the Senate. Besides being far to the left of Florida voters, Wasserman Schultz has a history of gaffes. Her role at the DNC has called for her to play up the partisanship and remain an attack dog. It’s led to some outrageous statements which could come back to haunt her if she runs for statewide office.
That’s not to say Wasserman Schultz is a slam dunk to be a future House speaker. But she is well-positioned to move up into the top congressional ranks and her prospects there look much better than they do at the state level.
Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis exclusively for Sunshine State News.