Prominent Democrats back Patrick Murphy over Alan Grayson
In a significant show of support, two prominent U.S. senators and a former U.S. representative are throwing their weight behind Patrick Murphy over Alan Grayson in the contentious Democratic primary in Florida's 2016 U.S. Senate race.
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill and former Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank say they believe Murphy has the better chance at uniting independent voters, who will likely decide next year's election.
They say Grayson, his main opponent, is too polarizing. They said Grayson -- if he were to beat Murphy in next year's Democratic primary -- could potentially cost the Democratic Party a significant chance at reclaiming the majority in the U.S. Senate come 2017, regardless of who the Republican candidate might be.
Klobuchar, McCaskill and Frank's endorsement announcement came Saturday as 2,000 Florida Democrats are gathered in Orlando this weekend for the state party convention.
"You gotta have somebody that will stand their ground but find common ground and reassure independent voters that they are not extreme," McCaskill said of Murphy. McCaskill knows from experience; she faces a similar dynamic in Missouri, a heavily Republican state.
Murphy's congressional district in Palm Beach County is moderate, and winning there is an example of his middle-of-the-road appeal and his ability to win, they said.
"Everyone’s going to be looking at Florida; if we don’t win Florida, we probably don’t take back the Senate," Klobuchar said.
Frank -- who, like Grayson, is a progressive -- said Grayson sometimes offers extremist rhetoric, such as "demonizing" the institution of government rather than attacking bad policies.
"If Alan Grayson is the Democratic nominee, I’ll be supportive; but we have a different approach," Frank said. "He gives into that temptation to play to people's fears excessively and demonize government."
In contrast, Frank said, "Patrick Murphy -- based on what I have learned of his record -- does the job in the way it should be done: Push for specific improvement, but you don’t lean toward the excess."
Grayson, who's never afraid to say what's on his mind, said Klobuchar, McCaskill and Frank need to "acquaint themselves better with the facts," such as Grayson's strength in polls over Murphy and against Republicans.
"I think they're beating a dead horse," the Orlando congressman told the Times/Herald. "That campaign is going nowhere. Dead in the water, and I think they're desperately trying to revive it."
But Murphy has significant campaign backing from other sitting U.S. senators, too -- signaling their preference of him over Grayson. A Times/Herald analysis found two-thirds of Democrats in the U.S. Senate have given campaign contributions to Murphy. Zero had given to Grayson, as of Sept. 30.
Frank's endorsement of Murphy comes at a time when Grayson's campaign has been trying to attack Murphy for receiving donations from Wall Street interests: $33,000 in the third quarter alone, by the Grayson campaign's tally.
Frank is perhaps best known for fighting Wall Street and pushing for financial reforms.
"Well, Barney Frank is renowned for his sense of humor, and this is a good example of that," Grayson said.
Photo credit: U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, (center) is endorsed in Florida's U.S. Senate race by U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. (left), U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri (second from right), and former U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., during a press conference at the Florida Democratic Party State Convention on Oct. 31. Kristen M. Clark / Herald/Times Tallahassee bureau