early and often

Republicans Hope to Give Marco Rubio His Dream Opponent in Florida Senate Race

Rep. Patrick Murphy
Representative Patrick Murphy. Photo: Bill Clark/© 2016 CQ-Roll Call, Inc.

After losing the Republican presidential primary to Hillary Clinton’s dream opponent, then saying, like 10,000 times, that he was getting out of politics, then taking it back and deciding to run for reelection after all, Marco Rubio is now hoping for a dream opponent of his own in the Florida Senate race.

With the Establishment Democrat in the race, Rep. Patrick Murphy, defending himself against allegations that he had generously padded his résumé, the GOP is working to boost his opponent, Alan Grayson, in the primary set for August 30, Politico reports.

Murphy has been doing damage control since last week, when CBS’s Miami affiliate aired an investigative report in which reporter Jim DeFede revealed that the 33-year-old’s claims to have been a small-business owner and an experienced accountant before going into politics may have been exaggerated. Some of DeFede’s allegations wilt under further scrutiny, according to PolitiFact, but the story’s legs may be strong enough to kick Murphy where it hurts.

Still, a poll released this week found Murphy and Rubio tied with 43 percent of the vote. On average, Murphy trails Rubio by just three points.

Grayson, on the other hand, is a liberal firebrand who plays well to primary voters, but is the subject of several ethics investigations (sound familiar?), as well as allegations that his family profited from slave labor in Africa — so naturally, Republicans would much prefer to pit Rubio against him.

I think anybody would rather run against Grayson,” Nevada senator Dean Heller, a vice-chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, told Politico. So in attacking Murphy over the CBS story, the GOP hopes not only to poison him for general-election voters, but maybe even also to cost him the primary, ensuring Rubio an easier race in the fall.

Democrats maintain that they are confident of their chances in Florida, that Grayson has no chance of winning the primary given his significant cash disadvantage against Murphy, and that Rubio’s negatives combined with the Trump effect make this a tough race for him.

The arguments against Rubio are far stronger and will cut more persuasively with the voters than any of this stuff,” New York senator Chuck Schumer said.

Rubio has his own long-shot primary opponent in wealthy real-estate developer Carlos Beruff, whom the Orlando Sentinel’s Scott Maxwell calls “the Florida version of Donald Trump.“ Trump beat Rubio in the presidential primary in his home state, but Beruff is pulling only 11 percent in the latest primary polls, compared to the senator’s comfortable 63 percent.

GOP Hopes to Give Rubio Weak Opponent in Florida