GOP efforts to target Alan Grayson undercut by recruitment failures

Is it not bizarre that the seemingly one and only race in which Republicans are having major recruitment difficulties recently involves the Democrat who has become their new public enemy number 1 - Rep. Alan Grayson?

GOP optimism that 2010 is shaping up to be a great year for them is undoubtedly helping them recruit stronger candidates than in the past cycle, as many Republicans think all they’ll have to do is jump in a contest to watch a vulnerable Democrat self-implode.

The NRCC has been particularly confident that Grayson is planting the seeds of defeat by emerging as one of Congress’s most vocal progressives. I don’t find it a compelling argument that a congressman is endangered as soon as he is outspoken, even if we’re talking about a swing district. That seems to me to lazily reflect a conventional wisdom that ignores counter-examples like Rep. Peter DeFazio, whose vocal populism has helped rather than hurt him.

But whatever we think of the dangers Grayson is bringing upon himself, there is no question that the same logic that has landed the GOP top-tier recruits against Harry Teague, Tom Perriello, Vic Snyder or Herseth Sandlin should have allowed them to get to numerous Florida Republicans to clamor for the right to face Grayson. Instead, a string of refusals that occurred over the past 10 day leaves Grayson safer today than he was a week ago.

First, it was Orange County mayor Rich Crotty who announced he would not run in 2010. That was partly a blow to the GOP - Crotty is a very well-known politician who would had no difficulty making this a high-profile contest - and partly a blessing, since Crotty faces ethical questions that would have helped Democrats turn the spotlight on him. Then, it was businessman Tim Seneff and State Rep. Stephen Precourt who followed Crotty out the door.

That left former state Senator Daniel Webster, who many considered as Grayson’s most dangerous challenger because of the 28 years he spent in the state legislature and the relatively imposing stature he acquired as a result in state politics - or at least in Florida’s conservative circles. That would have at least guaranteed him a financial base and an enthusiastic base, important factors in a midterm election. Crotty and Precourt’s exits would also have allowed Webster to enter the Republican primary as the clear front-runner.

But in somewhat of a surprise, Webster announced tonight that he would not challenge Grayson.

This means that the GOP’s prospects of fielding a top-tier opponent in the hands of state Senator Andy Gardiner, who would be a step down from Webster and perhaps also from Crotty. Gardiner does not face re-election until 2012, so he wouldn’t even have to risk his office to jump in the congressional race, but he has attracted less attention than Webster had.

If Gardiner declines, Republicans would be in the hands of untested challengers who could just as easily flame out as they could catch fire - from businessman Jerry Pierce and developer Armando Gutierrez to conservative activist Patricia Sullivan. If the GOP is correct to predict Grayson is heading towards a sure defeat, any of these options could be credible as long as the NRCC commits to helping. But there’s no question that Grayson would be entitled to celebrating if Gardiner also passes on the race.

After all, FL-08 is not the most propitious of territories for a Republican takeover - it voted for Obama by 6%. Grayson’s personal fortune and the support he’s sure to receive from liberals nationwide would make it that much harder for the GOP to score a pick-up with just anybody.

By contrast, NRCC lands candidates in NC-11 and CO-07

The breaks Grayson is receiving all the more striking considering the NRCC’s continued recruitment successes in districts that might be potentially vulnerable but that we haven’t been paying much attention to. That’s a trend we have seen pick-up in recent weeks and it continued this week in two new districts.

In NC-11, a district that voted for Bush by double-digits and McCain by 5%, Rep. Health Shuler just landed himself a challenger: Hendersonville Mayor Greg Newman. Hendersonville is far too small a town (around 10,000 inhabitants) for Newman to be a top-tier challenger, but he is sure to be a step-up from the party’s 2008 nominee: Asheville City Councilman Carl Mumpower suspended his campaign after securing the GOP nomination and refused to relaunch his bid until half of the local party leaders had committed to more conservative principles. Shuler crushed him in November.

In CO-07, the news is probably more consequential: The Denver Post is reporting that Aurora City Councilman Ryan Frazier will drop out of the Senate race to challenge Rep. Ed Perlmutter. That first step is no shocker: Since Jane Norton’s entered the Senate race, there’s only been room for a candidate willing to run from the right and Frazier is too moderate to appeal to conservative activists. But his switch to the House contest was not expected. (Note that the Frazier news still has to be confirmed.)

This comes shortly after the NRCC secured similar coups in NV and PA, where Joe Heck and Pat Meehan abandoned their gubernatorial ambitions to run for Congress instead. While CO-07 has become just as tough for the GOP as NV-03 and PA-07 (Obama won all of these by double-digits in 2008, including a 19% victory in CO-07), these Republicans are as strong contenders as the GOP could field in districts that were all competitive in 2004. In particular, CO-07 was designed by a judge to be a swing seat and 2009 polls suggest Colorado’s environment has soured on Democrats more than in other states.

9 Responses to “GOP efforts to target Alan Grayson undercut by recruitment failures”

  1. 1 fritz

    I’m not surprised that the Republicans are having a hard time finding a serious opponent for Grayson. Aside from being an incumbent he can self finance and has the one character trait that most other partisans on both left and right lack; a self deprecating sense of humor. I’ve heard a number of his interviews and he comes across as very personable congressman who doesn’t take himself to seriously. Most other partisan blowhards are humorless ideologues. If he can stay away from the holocaust comparisons he will be very successful

  2. 2 Ron

    I dont know if I would lump CO-07 in with NV-03 and PA-07. CO-07 went for Obama by 20 points as he only won the state by nine and Perlmutter is a pretty strong incumbent in the district that was originally created for him.

  3. 3 Taniel


    We go back to the issue of whether the 04 or the 08 results should be trusted when discussing a district’s partisan leanings - Co-07 voted for Obama by 19%, but it was also tighter in 2004 than PA-07 was. Also, I would not agree with your statement that the district was created for him: He was expected to run in 2002, yes, but because he was considered the Democrats’ strongest candidate not because the point of CO-07’s creation was that he get a House seat.

  4. 4 Cliff

    I really like Ryan Frazier, and hope he wins. I realize it’s a longshot race, but I think the guy’s got a future regardless. He’s young, has a great base in Aurora, and seems very personable and smart.

    I’m just hoping ‘10 is a big enough backlash to carry him over the finish line. If current trends keep up and Norton/McInnis are victorious, it’ll help him. But that’s obviously a huge “if”.

  5. 5 Jaxx Raxor

    I find it very difficult to envision Frazier winning in a district against a incumbent in which Obama won by nearly 20%. The Cook PVI is D+4 and Bush did get 48% of the vote, but I think its going to be very hard for any Republican to win in a district that leans Democrat in anyway unless they are an incumbent like Dave Reichert of WA-08 (Cook PVI +3). PA-07 and NH-02 are the only Dem leaning seats that I think are truly toss-ups, and that is not only because of the good GOP recruitment but that there is no incumbent.

    In terms of Grayson, that district has a Cook PVI of R+2: Bush won that district 55-44 in 2004, while Obama won it by 52-47, so Bush actually won and outperformed Obama, while in Defazio’s district OR-04 Kerry at least won that district narrowly, showing a consistent Democratic lean. So conventional wisdom should be that Grayson should be very vulernable despite Obama’s 08 victory, which makes the GOP’s recruiment troubles in that district all the more harrowing. I strong recruit against Grayson would be worth 4 of the recruitments that Republicans have been getting against very strong incumbents as Grayson would actually be in trouble if only he gets a strong opponnet.

  6. 6 Guy

    Cliff - why do you think there will be a big backlash? Most of the policies the President is putting forward were clearly spelt out last year in the campaign and/or are popular. Such as healthcare reform (with public option), closing guantanamo, reducing troop presence in Iraq, stimulus package etc.

  7. 7 Cliff

    Guy - Do you actually believe your own hype here?!?! That’s an honest question, although it sounds rude. I have trouble believing any informed person can think that.

    I favored GWB’s Social Security reforms, but I never kidded myself into thinking they were popular or that he had a mandate to do it.

    Anyhow, keep telling yourself that. None of the things you mentioned polls above 50% with any degree of consistency. And there isn’t a single seasoned political observer that is even remotely objective that isn’t saying ‘10 is going to be a bad year for D’s.

    If you actually think you are going to win running on the stimulus, the public option and Iraq, I pray to God that every Democrat in America takes your advise. Retaking the House will be a cakewalk.

    And Obama won for two reasons: 1. He’s not George Bush, 2. He was likable and sold a vague, vapid message of “change”. I doubt even half the people who voted for him could explain with any degree of accuracy what any of his policy proposals are.

    Oh, and he won’t have closed Gitmo by ‘10 either.

  8. 8 Guy

    Cliff - you are not rude, actually you are cogent for a Republican (no offence meant).

    Healthcare reform was a major issue in the elction campaign and the overall direction was clear to people. Most reputable polling companies show the public option to have over 50% support. Reducing the troop presence in Iraq is also popular - if people are tired of Afghanistan then they sure as hell are tired of Iraq. Personally I think we should send more troops into Afghanistan but that isn`t the issue.

    The Democrats will retain the Senate with a healthy majority. In the house they will lose seats but it will not be 1994. Obama has not made the mis-steps that Clinton id d(gays in the military, Hillary secretly drawing up healthcare reform etc). So I don`t see a “big” backlash as you call it. Maybe your definition of big is bigger than mine. The average loss is around 20 seats, I don`t expect a greater than average loss - do you?
    Remember the GOP is still rushing rightwards and people identifying as Republicans has not increased and stays below 30%.

    I agree Gitmo may not be closed. Having to deal with all the open legal questions left by the Bush administration takes time. Even the Supremem court (with a Conservative majority) asked for changes, not once but three times. There I was thinking the GOP was the party of law and order - then comply with the Supreme Court rulings!

    Anyway by your reason Obama can do what he likes because he has a solid majority. Bush pushed through stuff with only 51 senators and narrow 2000 and 2004 elections.

  9. 9 Guy

    Cliff - forgot to mention, sometimes I lay ot on thick to get a response from you since you are one of the few openly Republican people on this blog. I hope you by Sarah’s new book when it comes out!

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