Gwen Graham Needs Upfront Strategy Against Steve Southerland
Around the State
Gwen Graham might have a little momentum on her side but her caution is starting to become a hindrance that could hurt her as she heads into the general election.
Democrats are starting to like Graham’s chances against Steve Southerland in November. Roll Call posted a list of the top 10 most endangered incumbent congressmen this week and Southerland appeared on the list. The Cook Report also likes Graham’s prospects, moving the race to a tossup last week.
Things are looking good for Graham. Even as she proclaims the “North Florida Way" is all about cooperation and working together, Graham has been more than happy to have the DCCC attack Southerland every day for a week and a half. As for the candidate herself, she has been stumping around the district with her father Bob Graham who is still popular from his many years as governor and in the U.S. Senate.
But despite the progress, Gwen Graham is making a mistake too many candidates do when they feel the wind is at their backs. She’s starting to get overly cautious on the campaign trail.
Graham has tried to distance herself from Washington Democrats like Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi, and liberals like her old bosses Howard Dean and John Kerry. It’s a necessary tactic since Obamacare and Pelosi helped sink Allen Boyd back in 2010 and helped propel Southerland into Congress.
But it can go too far. While she has no qualms accepting money from the DCCC and Pelosi’s PAC, Graham’s efforts to hide her political affiliations are starting to get silly. Even as her campaign relies on Pelosi and the party leadership for funds, Graham won’t say if she will vote for the Democratic congressional leader to be speaker of the House.
Things got even worse this week. Graham was asked if she would have voted for Obamacare back in 2010 and she ignored the question. Conservative PAC America Rising is pushing the video of Graham blowing off a simple question.
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The general election season is about to begin. Roll Call’s analysis that Graham is one of the best chances for Democrats to pick up a House seat from Republicans is spot on. She’s really the only prospect Democrats have of flipping a seat from the GOP in Florida.
But Graham is starting to get a little too cautious. This will be a close race and she won’t be able to run a Rose Garden campaign or cling to her father’s record. By consistently refusing to answer questions -- does she back Obamacare, would she back Pelosi to be speaker -- Graham is not helping herself. Southerland and his allies will portray her as a political coward and a lightweight.
Graham’s in a good position and this race is one of the most competitive in the nation. But the hard work hasn’t begun yet. Graham is going to have to get in the mud with Southerland, a sharp contrast from her pious braying about the “North Florida Way” and droning on that she is a political outsider, never mind her past work and the Democratic leadership putting a lot of chips behind her as they make their bets for November.
Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis exclusively for Sunshine State News.