Friday, November 23, 2012

The Patrick Murphy Problem


I was more than a little shocked when Keith Ellison, one of the most progressive stalwarts in the House, endorsed Patrick Murphy. Murphy, a rich spoiled brat, a Romney donor, and a lifelong Republican who just switched parties, had exactly one thing going for him (aside from his father's personal attack PAC): he ran against hated war criminal Allen West. Many Members of Congress were especially eager to see West defeated-- and not just because he's a loudmouthed teabagger. Alan Grayson argued that there was no one else in the House like West because West is a war criminal. His presence brought a sense of infamy on the whole joint. Most progressives agree with Grayson on that one but they didn't rush to endorse Murphy. New Dems and other corrupt conservatives with blue t-shirts did. Ellison, of course, had an even more personal grudge against West, who isn't just a raving McCarthyite but is also a vicious Islamophobe who hate personally baited Ellison. I had never talked with Ellison when he called me to tell me his thoughts on why he had endorsed Murphy; that was also our last conversation (at least so far).

One thing Ellison said that I liked-- and liked a lot-- was an indication that he would take Murphy under his wing and help him understand the progressive prospective. It's a shame he can't time travel back to when Murphy was 5 or 6 years old... but it's worth a try. And he needs to get started quickly. Yesterday MSNBC anchor Andrea Mitchell asked Murphy a typically loaded Villager kind of question: "How much are you willing to cut entitlements if you get the tax increases you want?" Could you imagine anything like that coming out of Rachel Maddow's mouth? And Murphy's response-- well just the exact New Dem line: "Everything should be on the table." Boehner's gonna love this boy! And Ellison better get busy.

Murphy has to decide if he's really a Democrat-- and willing to embrace Democratic values and the interests of working families-- or if he really is nothing but a Republican with a blue t-shirt. And he's going to have to decide pretty fast because, as Dave Weigel pointed out at Slate this week, West could probably beat him in a 2014 rematch.
The 18th district, won in a squeaker by 29-year old Democrat Patrick Murphy, really should be open to voting Republican. It consists (going down the map) of St. Lucie County, Martin County, and part of Palm Beach County. West's defeat had a lot to do with a Democratic surge in St. Lucie, which has a larger black population-- 19.5 percent-- than Florida as a whole. Obama carried it by 8 points with 65,869 votes. Murphy (who's white) carried it by 10 points, with 65,567 votes. Had West got as many votes in St. Lucie as Mitt Romney did, he would have won.

What will happen in 2014? It'll be a midterm year, harder to rebuild the Obama coalition. In 2010's gubernatorial race, for example, Democrat Alex Sink won St. Lucie County with 51 percent of the vote, but only 35,432 total votes. Martin County, which turned out to be a stronghold for West, cast 54,227 votes that year; St. Lucie cast 69,449. In 2010, the numbers were 75,857 in Martin (an increase of 28 percent) and 118,239 in St. Lucie (an increase of 70 percent).

Basically, in order to hang on, Murphy needs to be a perfect incumbent and needs the next Democratic nominee for governor -- possibly the reformed Charlie Crist-- to grind out South Florida votes in an approximation of the Obama machine. He also needs some conservatives to waste money the way they wasted it this year, on scammy PACs that claim to raise money for West but do nothing of the source.
And if West doesn't run, but a more mainstream Republican does, and if Murphy shows he's really a Republican himself, Democratic voters just won't show up at the polls to vote for him. Meanwhile, though, what about the outside Democratic groups that poured money into the race to defeat West? Will they do anything to hold Murphy accountable to Democratic values?

The short answer is "no!" The biggest cash came from the DCCC ($568,365) and the House Majority PAC, basically the same outfit ($2,467,798) and neither organization cares what he does, as long as he calls himself a Democrat. Others who got involved in the race include the SEIU (around $200,000), which is a great bunch but which doesn't seem to hold bad Democrats accountable; the AFL-CIO ($13,386), even less likely than the SEIU to guide Murphy; CREDO ($64,538), which insists it wasn't especially fighting for Murphy, just against West; Planned Parenthood (around $22,000); the Florida Freedom PAC, an ad hoc SEIU front ($80,848); and FSA PAC, which was funded by a bunch of environmentalist groups plus Democratic super-donor Tim Gill ($39,177). And Ellison got the Congressional Progressive Caucus' PAC to endorse Murphy as well. Let's see how that works out. I wonder if anyone is working on him to vote for Barbara Lee for House Caucus vice chair next week. Keith?

UPDATE: Murphy A Progressive?

That's what Daily Kos contributor David Nir says. (He claims he's a progressive as well, though.) Nir is very proud of his part in having elected Murphy. I hope Nir is correct and we never have to say "I told you so." I guess it comes down to how you define "progressive," of course.

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At 7:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope you're wrong here. I worked hard here in FL 18 for Murphy, and have had the opportunity to sit down with him several times to discuss the policy issues I'll be working with his office on, and he strikes me as a person who will be a moderate, but not a blue dog. This is a Republican district, and SLC is only 1/3 of it.This was a good win, and will be a tough hold, made even tougher if he's expected to be some kind of Grayson-like presence when he's really fairly conventional. He'll vote the right way when it matters. Also, West won't be back in 2014; I guarantee that. The challenger you're looking for is Joe Negron, current State Senator for the area. That will be the 2014 race, that's another thing I'm confident in. Let's try to hold it and encourage our youngest member of Congress, not trash him, at least until he's actually DONE something.

At 4:53 PM, Anonymous Megaman_X said...

Do not trust Daily Kos. They are absolutely clueless as to how counterproductive the DCCC is. They never brought any attention to Nate Shinagawa and never figured out why the DCCC left Syed Taj for dead. Whatever the Democratic Party does, they follow, for the most part.


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