Patrick Murphy Follows Bill Nelson's Playbook, Not the Usual Florida Democrat Game Plan

By: Jeff Henderson | Posted: June 7, 2014 3:55 AM
Patrick Murphy and Bill Nelson

Patrick Murphy and Bill Nelson

While he never reached the heights of either Lawton Chiles or Bob Graham, Bill Nelson has proven to be the only Florida Democrat to win statewide elections on a consistent basis -- and a rising congressman is taking notes.

Nelson has carved out a niche as a moderate Democrat, even if he rarely breaks with the Obama administration. This reputation has helped Nelson over the years and he traditionally wins areas of the state that Republicans rely on. Take 2012, when Republicans expected Connie Mack to offer Nelson a tight battle. It simply didn’t happen as Nelson won over the usual Republican bastions, including beating Mack in the likes of Duval and Polk counties.

In his many decades in Florida politics, Nelson has made a habit of claiming the middle even if he almost never pushes back against more liberal members of his party. Take recent weeks, for example. While he never actually called for Eric Shinseki to go, Nelson won a bunch of attention and applause for saying “heads need to roll” at VA. Nelson also had the wit to quickly get behind Marco Rubio’s and Jeff Miller’s bill to give the VA secretary more power to fire department workers. It was a win-win for Nelson. He got good press while not breaking with Obama.

At least one Florida Democrat seems cut from the same cloth as Nelson. Patrick Murphy has also won attention in recent days for his role in the VA controversies. Murphy called for Shinseki’s resignation around the same time as Rubio and Miller. He also profited from a major photo opportunity over Memorial Day weekend by meeting with the troops in Afghanistan.

Murphy has tried to grab the middle and, more than Nelson, has been willing to throw jabs at Obama. From voting Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress to criticizing the administration for raiding Medicare Advantage to fund Obamacare, Murphy has made some high-profile stands against the White House.

While he hasn’t avoided all the pitfalls, such as All Aboard Florida where he has shifted his position, Murphy is in a strong position to win a second term in November. On paper, this should be a competitive race with Republicans outnumbering Democrats here and Murphy beating Allen West by the skin of his teeth in 2012. But Murphy has done well in building a war chest, and major candidates like West and Adam Hasner stayed out of the mix this year, leading to a crowd of distinctly second- and third-tier Republican hopefuls.

Unlike gaffe-prone Joe Garcia, liberal Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the other Democrats in the Florida delegation, Murphy has a path to winning statewide office. Unlike too many Democrats who ran for office in recent years -- Bill McBride, Alex Sink, Jim Davis, Betty Castor -- Murphy doesn’t call Tampa Bay home. He’s not a tool to the teachers' union and trial lawyers currently pulling the strings on the Florida Democrats. Murphy’s following Bill Nelson’s path instead of the usual trail that leads to defeat for Florida Democrats.

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

Comments (6)

H.E. "Pete" Ashley
7:48PM JUN 8TH 2014
If Harry Reid stopped short we would loose Bill Nelson.
Patricia Lavins
11:03AM JUN 7TH 2014
Senator Bill Nelson is among the most effective members of the Senate because he is able to build coalitions. It is low key charm that has made if much more effective than the Tea Party grandstanders. Due his senority he is able to have multiple offices all across the state who work diligently with various other government agencies to resolve specific issues of concern to his constitutents. Congressman Murphy is indeed following the same path of consensus leadership and all Floridians should be grateful.
C Breeze
12:12PM JUN 7TH 2014
"Seniority"???....."Seniority" is one of the primary problems in the ENTIRE Congress (unless you're "collecting favors"...Read: "Extortion" by Peter Sweitzer if you really want to understand how "seniority" begets corruption in the U.S. House & Senate. Sweitzer's book is an "across the board" expose' indictment of our entire "political elite class" ).
C Breeze
12:03PM JUN 7TH 2014
"Inner circle", "campaign wonk", "special interest" or Nelson 'relative' are you Patricia???? "Low key charm"?!?...Maybe YOU have it Miss Lavins, BUT Nelson's "low key charm" is 'constituent & work avoidance'... In fact, he always comes across, in his RARE public appearances, as in possession of merely "room temperature IQ"...and we have more than enough of THAT type in Legislatures all across this land. Sorry Miss Lavins, it's impossible to defend the indefensible...
C Breeze
10:01AM JUN 7TH 2014
Nelson is non-controversial because he is almost non-existent; It is IMPOSSIBLE to contact the man in any manner (for about ten years I've been trying). All you get from him are self-aggrandizement messages from ALL "contact channels"; His 'mailings' ONLY arrive just prior to his own election cycle every six years...and then we have to hear ONCE AGAIN about his "once upon a time" "ride-along" on a space shuttle LONG LONG AGO. The man is useless unless you are a Lobbiest or a major contributor to Nelson's campaign funds. I think two terms are two terms far too long for an 'automaton' beholden far too much to "the Party Line", Obama, and "special interest" groups INSTEAD of America: Nelson is NO "Statesman"!
AND, if Patrick Murphy is even THINKING about emulating Bill Nelson,.. then Patrick Murphy is NOT the man for the job, and is just one more opportunist willing to attack Obama, Lois Lerner and criticizing the Obama Administration, and anything else that just might get this Democrat 'clone' elected: "Cut in the same cloth as Nelson"?..."Following in Nelson's path"... I don't think you're the "statesman" Florida, or America, is looking for...NO THANK YOU PATRICK MURPHY !!!!..You are just "more of the same", and we won't need you.
Gerald L. Von Loh Sr.
9:23AM JUN 7TH 2014
Senator Bill Nelson is not a moderate democrat as he is very much a liberal democrat. He has voted for all the most liberal objectives of Obama and signed on a petition of fellow liberal democrats in favor of Obama signing executive presidential orders to bypass Congress. He has done a great job of conning the voting public of Florida.

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