If the Democratic establishment has its way, Florida Democratic primary voters won't get much of a choice about their nominee. Rep. Patrick Murphy, a former registered Republican and Florida's most conservative house Democrat, announced his candidacy for Marco Rubio's soon-to-be-abandoned Senate seat in March, and the establishment has coalesced around him.
Today, the Democratic powers that be in D.C. weighed in, and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee officially endorsed Murphy, despite the fact other candidates, including liberal-backed Alan Grayson, are said to still be mulling candidacies.
"Patrick Murphy is one of our party’s most promising rising stars, and his track record of fighting for Florida’s working families, seniors, and the environment makes him the strongest candidate to win the Florida Senate race and flip this seat," DSCC chairman Sen. Jon Thrasher of Montana said in a statement. "During his time in the House, Patrick has stepped up to protect the Florida Everglades, voted down extreme proposals that would harm Medicare, voted to protect Social Security, and fought to ensure that working families are given a fair chance to get ahead. I am confident that Patrick will continue working hard for all Floridians following his successful election to the Senate, and we are proud to support his campaign."
The DSCC is existing senate Democrats' main campaign and fundraising organization, with the goal of getting other Dems elected to the senate. The DSCC usually endorses incumbents straightaway but picks and chooses which open primaries it gets involved in.
However, the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida is not impressed. Its members oppose Murphy and remain frustrated with the establishment's refusal to consider other candidates — including Grayson.
"The idea that a senator from Montana and Wall Street Democrats know better than rank-and-file Florida Democrats is both patronizing and unsurprising," caucus president Susan Smith said in her own statement.
"I wish the DSCC would take a page from the Democratic National Committee's playbook. Last week when Bernie Sanders announced he was joining Hillary Clinton in running for president, the DNC wisely welcomed him to the race because they recognize that spirited primary debates are good for our party and our country."
An endorsement from a party's national senatorial campaign committee doesn't always equal victory. In 2010, Charlie Crist received the GOP equivalent from the National Republican Senatorial Committee, only to watch his candidacy crumble at the hands of Marco Rubio's insurgent campaign.
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However, Florida Democrats seem to prefer to keep their primaries quiet affairs. In 2010, the DSCC reportedly tried to get Dan Gelber out of a primary against Kendrick Meek for the same Senate seat Rubio ended up winning. Gelber ended up dropping out two weeks after that rumor surfaced. Nan Rich's candidacy for governor in 2014 was similarly discouraged by the establishment, which backed Crist.
That seems to be the pattern in Florida statewide elections for both senator and governor lately. The Democrat establishment picks its favorite — usually a moderate — and tries to clear out the rest of the primary field even before the election takes place. The problem, of course, is that favorite candidate usually has a habit of losing the general election.
Oddly, the Democrats are in a better place than the Republicans at the moment. Some of that party's top rising stars are removing their names from the list of possible candidates. They don't even have a frontrunner to coalesce around.