Nancy Pelosi Shouldn't Look to Florida to Flip the House

Jeff Henderson | Sunshine State News | 07/22/2014

Nancy Pelosi made it clear when she talked to the media last week that whatever slim chances there are of Democrats flipping the House rest on redistricting in Florida and, even there, the window is closing.

Despite all pundits belittling her chances to win back the gavel, Pelosi claimed there was a path to win control of the House in November and it rests on Florida where two congressional districts—those held by Democrat Corrine Brown and Republican Dan Webster—were ruled unconstitutional. But time is running short. Absentee ballots go out on Tuesday for August’s primaries. Redistricting looks like it will have more of an impact in Florida come 2016.

Looking around Florida, it’s tough to see how Democrats make much in the way of progress to winning back the House. Democrats like their chances against Steve Southerland in North Florida. Gwen Graham has proven a strong fundraiser and she’s hoping state employees come out in full force in and around Tallahassee. But Southerland’s been trying to pin Pelosi to Graham. With her recent comments about how important Florida is to her coming back as speaker, Pelosi isn’t exactly helping Graham on that front.

But if Democrats like their chances against Southerland, it’s tough to envision another Republican seat they could pick up in November. Even if Webster’s district changes in the days to come, the Democrats have a weak field of candidates running against him and would be very hard-pressed to defeat him. Nor do their chances look any better elsewhere as Jeff Miller, Ted Yoho, Ron DeSantis, John Mica, Bill Posey, Rich Nugent, Dennis Ross, Vern Buchanan, Tom Rooney and Curt Clawson all start with massive leads over their Democratic challengers. The Democrats didn’t even bother to field candidates against Ander Crenshaw, Gus Bilirakis, David Jolly, Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

To their credit, Democrats are certainly in good position to hold most of their current seats. Brown won’t have any problems unless she’s redistricted and even then, like Webster, she’s not exactly facing topnotch opponents. The likes of Alan Grayson, Kathy Castor, Alcee Hastings, Lois Frankel, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Frederica Wilson should easily run over their Republican opponents. Ted Deutch doesn’t have to worry about a Republican challenger in November.

Republicans had some hope of taking down Patrick Murphy after his narrow win over Allen West last year. But Murphy has been a hard worker and a good fundraiser. West and other top Republicans stayed out of the race, leaving a far weaker field than anyone could have expected. After the second quarter fundraising numbers came out last week, national pundits lowered the GOP’s chances of picking this seat up. Unless something drastic happens in the coming weeks, Murphy appears headed back to Washington with surprising ease.

Republicans can at least feel better about their chances of beating Joe Garcia. Carlos Curbelo should easily handle his primary opponents next month, paving the way for a competitive general election contest. Garcia’s made some gaffes, to be sure, but he’s been a strong fundraiser and has the edge in cash, a major factor in the expensive South Florida markets.

Increasingly it appears Democrats have only one viable Florida target to flip in Southerland’s seat while the GOP has a realistic chance of beating Garcia and other Democrat incumbents should stay safe. Pelosi and the Democrats need at least another Republican seat or two to be competitive if they are going to have any chance of flipping the House in November. Even if redistricting comes into play, Democrats looking to take the House shouldn’t expect much from Florida. The Sunshine State—like the rest of the nation—is primed to keep the House under GOP control.

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