The overhyping of underwhelming Patrick Murphy
For at least a year the conventional wisdom has echoed from Democrats and Republican alike in Washington, Tallahassee, and across Florida: U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy is the future of the Democratic party, a powerhouse statewide candidate and most likely Florida's next U.S. Senator.
Today, two months before Barack Obama's and Joe Biden's preferred candidate faces Alan Grayson in a primary and four and half before the general election, we're struggling to think of when Florida last saw a candidate who proved as overrated and over-hyped as Murphy.
The Times/Herald and others in recent weeks have shown the pattern with the 33-year-old congressman from Palm Beach County: He appeared to be a serial exaggerator of his accomplishments, from inflating the scope of his work on Gulf clean-up after the BP oil spill, to falsely claiming to have earned dual college degrees, to overstating his work as a CPA. This week a Miami TV station aired a two-part investigative series that portrayed Murphy as an unaccomplished, chronic embellisher.
"Murphy’s rise is extraordinary because of how little he seems to have accomplished to get here," concluded CBS4 News. "...Murphy has in some cases exaggerated his experience and in other instances made claims that were misleading or outright false. For instance, he has never worked a day in his life as a Certified Public Accountant. And he was never a small business owner."
Murphy's campaign has attacked the report as unfair and inaccurate. He was a CPA, even if he was never licensed by Florida or worked as long as he seemed to imply. And he did have a small business, even if his wealthy father may have bought it for him and it didn't actually do much cleanup work.
But what's already certain is that the Democratic party establishment prematurely planned a coronation for a candidate about to mauled and carved up by Republicans. "Patrick Murphy - a career built on lies," is how the National Republican Senatorial Committee has started describing him.
Murphy is telegenic, moderate, and as a congressman largely uncontroversial. Mainly, though, what has set him apart and drew the enthusiasm of the likes of Harry Reid is money. Murphy’s father in the construction business has been willing to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to help get him elected, so the party establishment saw little reason to dig below the surface of Murphy’s image.
Political analysts have consistently deemed Florida's U.S. Senate race as one of a handful of toss-up contests across the country. After Rubio announced his reelection campaign last week, that rating will likely shift to GOP-leaning.
Given the way Murphy has withered under scrutiny in recent weeks, we're wondering if most of the drama will be in the primary and not the general. Rubio may face more difficulty winning the nomination against businessman Carlos Beruff than beating either Grayson, notoriously obnoxious and mired in pending ethics probes - or Murphy, who increasingly looks like an emperor with no clothes.