Alan Grayson in danger of losing his seat in Congress to Daniel Webster says analyst
On Friday we brought you our interview with progressive member of Congress from Orlando, Alan Grayson. His Republican opponent, Daniel Webster has declined our requests for an interview. Three others are running as well.
Today, we hear about that race from Aubrey Jewett, a political science professor at the University of Central Florida.
"Well, Allen Grayson is a very liberal, or progressive depending on your terms, incumbent Congressman, he's in his first term and he really has gotten a national reputation for being over the top, in your face, not giving an inch to conservatives or Republicans and that has endeared him to liberals and progressives across the country, really. It's also pumped up his fund raising total to several million dollars and he's also independently wealthy so he'll have no shortage of money for his campaigning, he has and he's spent a lot.
"Facing him is Daniel Webster who is a former member of the Florida legislature, he served in the House and became the first Republican speaker of the House back in 1996. The first Republican that we've had in Florida in about ninety years going back to the Civil War Era. And then after that he served a number of terms in the Florida Senate. He's a very conservative guy, was considered to be, though, quite fair by Democrats when he was Speaker of the House and, anyway, so we've got a real battle here in District 8 between your very conservative Republican candidate, Webster, and your very liberal Democratic candidate, Alan Grayson."
Besides Grayson's style what are some of the important issues in the race?
"Well, of course that would depend on the voter, what Webster is counting on is that voters in this district are going to be like the average voter nationwide, in that they're frustrated with the direction of Washington, DC, they're frustrated at the spending that's going on, they're worried about the deficit, they're worried about the big health care reform bill, and so his, Webster's, basic campaign strategy, one of the issues that he has been running on are those, and he keeps it pretty simple, you know, 'if you think Washington is going in the right direction, generally, if you think that the spending level is where you want it, if you're happy with the debt, then you should not vote for me but, if you want to do something about that, vote for me.'
"And, for Grayson, he has not really talked too much about issues, he spent a little time defending what they've done, and he's talked about how he's tried to save the taxpayer money and this sort of thing. He's also defended the stimulus, at least to some degree by pointing out that the money that was spent in Florida and his district helped the schools and police, firefighters, things like that. But mostly he's been running a campaign that's attacking Webster on a number of personal issues, some of which have backfired on him because they were so over the top and just wrong, inaccurate, that he actually caught a lot of flack for it and Webster got a lot of sympathy, and actually quite a bit of money as well. He was able to raise a lot of money because of it."
For example the Taliban Dan...
"Yeah, first, some of the ads that (Grayson) has run, the one that was most over the top was the Taliban Dan ad, where he took a clip of Webster saying "submit to me" to make it seem as if that's what he was saying, when in fact when he made that speech, and this was a quote out of the Bible, he said well...he was talking to a men's group and he said, well, when you're looking for verses to pray, he said you pray about things you're supposed to pray about, that you're supposed to do for your wife, he says don't pray "submit to me" which is in the Bible. but, now, he says "I don't want you to pray that, I want you to pray about things..." So that was probably the one that caused Grayson the most grief because it just took the words, not just out of context, but really a hundred eighty degrees opposite of what Webster said which is he said "Don't say this" and the commercial made it seem like that's what Webster was actually saying."
There seem to be fewer face to face debates in Florida politics this election cycle. Have there been any debates between Grayson and Webster?
"To date there has not, I saw one debate that was actually held but Webster did not attend. Grayson was there, two minor party candidates were there as well. The contention is this, Grayson hopes that ...there's a Tea Party candidate in the race, so what Grayson hopes is that the Tea Party candidate will get a lot more visibility and then maybe that will split the anti-Obama, anti-Grayson vote. So Grayson's position is that he will be happy to do debates, but any debate between he and Webster should also include this third party candidate, that's the Tea Party candidate. Webster's position, of course, is he thinks that any debate should just be between Webster and Grayson and that they should not allow minor parties candidates to be involved. And there's an added bit of intrigue in that Webster and a lot of the Republican party officials over here think that Grayson actually has had a hand in supporting the Tea Party candidates, sort of had a hand in trying to get them in the race, specifically as a strategic move that he didn't think that a Tea Party person could win but might split the Republican vote. So, to date, really ... not been any open public debates between Webster and Grayson."
And, finally, how do the polls look in this race, who is likely to win?
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"The only polls that I have seen have been from Republican leaning groups and so I don't have a good feel, I haven't seen like a media poll that I would consider totally neutral. Now, I will say that these Republican leaning groups showed Webster up and I think most political analysts, including myself, think that Grayson is in trouble and it's just a matter of how much trouble you think he's in. The most charitable ratings organizations call this race a toss up which, obviously if you're an incumbent, that means you're in big trouble because incumbents win on normal years about ninety per cent of the time. Other analysts have already got this thing saying 'lean Republican' suggesting that the big anti-Obama, anti-Democratic tide that's sweeping over the country is going to help sweep Webster in and Grayson out. I will say that Grayson does have maybe a little bit more going for him than some candidates because he's independently wealthy so he's got a ton of money and he's been able to raise a lot, and this District, District 8 is also still Democratic by registration. It's got about 11,000 more Democrats than Republicans so that does give him a little cushion so we'll just have to wait 'til election day, though, to see if that's enough of a cushion. You know, I rate it right now, probably 'lean Republican'. I think Webster's got a decent shot of knocking Grayson off."