In other news from soggy-but-recovering Florida where the governor seeking a promotion to the White House is absolutely in his element … slightly down the 2024 ticket, Rick Scott has begun to draw challengers for his reelection to the U.S. Senate.
Try not to giggle.
Not so long ago, Florida produced moderate Democrats capable of leading a dynamic, growing, endlessly fascinating purplish state, Democrats in the mold of next-door neighbor Sam Nunn. Lawton Chiles was one. Bob Graham another. Bill Nelson, narrowly ousted from the Senate in 2018 by Scott, may have been the last of the breed.
These days, Florida’s well of (a) traditional moderate Democrats who (b) have proved they can win statewide is a well is as dry and dusty as Death Valley in July.
Until a week or so ago, the Sunshine State branch of the party of Jefferson and Jackson (who — telltale sign — wouldn’t be welcomed at a fundraiser banquet today) had zero leg-tingling candidates ready to take on Scott. The slate included a St. Petersburg lawyer and former state House representative (Brian Rush) and a retired U.S. Navy Commander (Phil Ehr).
Understand the mule party’s absence of titillation: Last August, Rush got 6.3% of the vote in the Democratic primary won by former cop and U.S. Rep. Val Demings — who then missed toppling incumbent Marco Rubio by 16 points. In 2020, Matt Gaetz won reelection to the U.S. House by 30 points over Ehr.
Now comes Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, 51, an Ecuadorian by way of Miami who had a cup of coffee in the U.S. House as the congressional representative for the Big Cypress National Preserve (2019-2021). For reasons that escape even those paying attention, Mucarsel-Powell has been on state Democratic Chair Nikki Fried’s shorty-short list for the longest time.
Well, at least since former NBA stars Grant Hill and Dwyane Wade declined to be fed to the vaunted Scott political grinder.
Does running against one of the wealthiest members of the Senate, a noted self-funder and a three-time winner on the statewide stage, look like fun for Mucarsel-Powell? On a pro-abortion, gun-control platform? (We are not making this up.)
“My mother brought me to this country so we could live in a nation with opportunities for all and where it doesn’t matter who you are,” she said. “Everyone has a chance to make it.”
We do not disagree. But there are chances, and there are likelihoods. Maybe the dutiful Mucarsel-Powell is simply taking one for the team. It’s hard to imagine solid-red Florida turning out for yet another relative unknown, especially with the Scott campaign already way out front in the define-the-enemy game.
“We’d like to welcome yet another failed congressional candidate to the crowded Democrat primary,” Scott Communications Director Priscilla Ivasco said. “Former Congresswoman Mucarsel-Powell is a radical socialist who voted 100% of the time with Nancy Pelosi during her short tenure in Congress, which is why the voters of South Florida booted her out of office the first chance they got. Floridians already rejected her once and they will reject her again.”
Nonetheless, Scott has the good sense to know he’s in for some semblance of a tussle.
“It is the first presidential election cycle I will be in. It’s still the biggest swing state. The national Democratic Party is going to spend money here,” Scott told NBC News during an interview at a downtown Tampa Starbucks this week. “I think they [Democrats] will need Florida. There are a bunch of swing states. If you can get Florida, that’s a big win.”
Moreover, it’s not like Scott hasn’t made himself vulnerable, especially to a primary challenge. His “11-Point Plan to Rescue America” included so much iocane powder even the Dread Pirate Roberts couldn’t have survived. Tax the poorest? Put sacrosanct entitlements on the sunset chopping block?
Scott issued an update, boosting the scheme to an even dozen points, including one disavowing any intention to raise taxes on anybody, anywhere, anytime. But the rest remains, and no matter how sweetly these proposals sing to the far-right frontiers of any conservative’s heart, you don’t have to be Karl Rove to identify all the nonstarters for otherwise persuadable independents. Here are just a few of the problem areas.
- A free country does not demand its children recite the Pledge of Allegiance. It encourages through the forthright teaching of its history and principles, but it does not command.
- The federal budget would be balanced, on pain of members of Congress foregoing their paychecks. We absolutely should be more fiscally responsible, but what’s involved? Cuts for thee but not for me? And what’s the timeline?
- “All social media platforms that censor speech and cancel people will be treated like publishers and subject to legal action.” Sounds like full employment for the communications guild, and an end to valuing the independence of private companies. As an aside, does this mean America’s remaining newspaper publishers have to print every letter to the editor?
Back in April when the plan was new, Kevin Williamson, at National Review Online, sniffed ambition run amok.
Scott’s transformation from conservative pragmatist to howling hurler of hooey is a sobering example of what proximity to personal power — which, in our context, means presidential power — can do to a man, a reminder that character matters in a political leader because it is more enduring than white papers and more indicative of how a politician will actually perform in office. The transformation is also a very amusing example of the perversity of the Republican cult of “anti-establishment” politics.
So far, however, no one ever heard of outside their neighborhoods has signed up to challenge Scott for the GOP nod. No, not even Ron DeSantis, despite the “roomer” posted by Truth Social Man.
OK. Never mind. Giggle all you want. In a state suddenly awash with registered Republican voters, “Democratic challenger” is pretty much a laugh line.