After years of court battles, the Florida Supreme Court finally decided on a new congressional map that changes the dynamic in a handful of districts.
The results must be bittersweet for Democrats, who have been crying for “fair districts” for quite some time and could net as many as three seats in Florida next year. But they will also likely lose one of their stars, freshman Democratic Rep. Gwen Graham, whose 2nd District is now so Republican that it’s hard to see her even attempting to run for re-election.
The dust is still settling, considering the ruling came on Wednesday, and we’ll have a more thorough analysis of each district in a future issue of the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report . But the new lines warrant a few immediate ratings changes, even as the fields of candidates take shape.
• Graham is one of Democrats’ most talented candidates, but even some party strategists doubt she can win in the newly drawn 2nd District, which Mitt Romney carried with 65 percent. We’re changing the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call rating to Republican Favored, until Graham announces her decision to leave the seat, at which point it will become Safe Republican.
• The 10th District is headed in the other direction. Republican Rep. Dan Webster’s re-drawn district is now dramatically more Democratic. President Barack Obama carried it with 61 percent of the vote in 2012. Webster could try to run in another district or opt for retirement. Even some of Republicans’ most talented members don’t hold districts this Democratic. We’re changing our rating to Safe Democrat.
• Republican Rep. David Jolly apparently saw the writing on the wall months ago and decided to leave his 13th District in order to run for Republican Marco Rubio’s open Senate seat. The district is more Democratic (Obama won it with 55 percent in 2012) and former Democratic gubernatorial nominee Charlie Crist casts a long shadow over the district. Former Defense Department official Eric Lynn is also running on the Democratic side as well.
Crist starts the race with nearly universal name identification in his home territory and a considerable early advantage. But he has lost races before that he was “supposed" to win, albeit under different circumstances.
In 2010, Crist was the popular Republican governor of Florida, but he was forced out of the Senate primary by Rubio and lost the general election as an independent. And in 2014, Crist faced polarizing and unpopular GOP Gov. Rick Scott, and managed to lose that race as well. Some people believe Crist can walk into this seat, but it appears the former governor might test that hypothesis, which is never a good sign.
Democrats’ insurance policy may be that Republicans don’t have a top-tier candidate. Some insiders are holding out hope that former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker will run. But that looks very unlikely.
We’re changing our rating of the 13th District to Lean Democrat for now, but it could get safer if Crist decides to put together a normal campaign and put the race away.
• The field looks set in the 26th District, where GOP Rep. Carlos Curbelo will likely face Annette Taddeo, Crist’s running mate in 2014. But the district lines changed to be a few points more Democratic. Obama won the new district with 55 percent in 2012. That’s enough to change the rating from Tossup/Tilt toward Curbelo to Tossup.
• We’re adding the 7th District onto the list of competitive races. Obama and Romney deadlocked at 49 percent in 2012 in GOP Rep. John L. Mica’s district and Democrats are anxious to give him his first serious general election challenge in decades.
Mica has proven his mettle in previous GOP primaries, but a general election could be interesting. The congressman had $417,000 in the bank on Sept. 30 but Democrats are very excited about their presumptive nominee Bill Phillips. The banker just announced his candidacy and is believed to have access to considerable resources.
We’re changing our rating of the 7th District from Safe to Favored Republican.
The 18th District continues to be very competitive, even though the district boundaries didn’t change dramatically like the others. Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy is leaving the seat open to run for the Senate, but he made the district easier to hold than it really is, based on his political skill. The seat remains a Tossup.
Overall, the range of outcomes in Florida range from no net change to a Democratic gain of three seats, with Democrats most likely to pick up a seat or two. But it will be a few weeks, or even months before the candidate fields and primaries take shape in order to assess each party’s general election strengths and weaknesses.
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