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Democrats Clear the Decks for Patrick Murphy's 2016 Senate Run

March 16, 2015 - 7:00pm

On Monday, Charlie Crist said he wasnt going to run for the Senate in 2016. Tuesday saw Debbie Wasserman Schultz on CNN with Wolf Blitzer where she bowed out of the Senate race. Alan Grayson is still in the mix but hes going through an ugly divorce trial with the congressman charging his estranged wife with bigamy. Not exactly who Democrats want to carry their banner in a swing state during a presidential year.

Patrick Murphys people are saying he will run for the Senate next year no matter what Marco Rubio does. If Rubio foregoes a second term to run for the presidency, Murphy offers Democrats a decent shot at picking up a Senate seat. Even if Rubio decides to stay in the Senate, Murphy at least gives Democrats a credible candidate, though he would certainly be an underdog.

In his brief political career, Murphy has impressed. Its telling that he has carried a swing district twice where Republicans have a slight advantage, outworking Allen West in 2012 and simply destroying Carl Domino last year in a rare bright spot for Democrats. The Beltway Democrats quickly fell in line behind Murphy, including Harry Reid who is high on the young congressmans chances.

Murphy offers far less baggage than Crist, Wasserman Schultz or Grayson. Polls show Murphy is far lesser known that those other Democrats but he also does not have a large segment of voters against him right off the bat. Murphys more of a centrist than any of them and comes from an increasingly important area of the state. Democrats seem to think they should continue to run candidates from Tampa Bay -- Crist, Alex Sink, Betty Castor, Bill McBride, Jim Davis. Murphy should help Democrats break out of that blueprint which has never worked for them.

Of course, there are some major disadvantages to Murphys candidacy. He is unknown and not tested at the state level. Murphys far lesser known than some of his potential Republican rivals like Jeff Atwater. Republicans have a blank slate which means they can go on the attack against Murphy.

Republicans have to find the right line of attack. Simply painting Murphy as a liberal or a Nancy Pelosi isnt going to work. West and Domino tried it and it blew up in their faces. The GOP might be wiser to paint Murphy as someone who is too ambitious and too inexperienced. Murphy turns 32 later this month, which is not an advantage in a state with as many seniors as Florida has. Regardless, Democrats are starting to get behind Murphy for next years Senate race.

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

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