Progressive firebrand Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) told me last night that rumors of his political demise have been greatly exaggerated.
“We’re winning,” Grayson told me during a long phone call.
For the past week, bad news has been mounting for Grayson, first in the form of a lawsuit that re-raised rumors that he’s behind a mysterious “Tea Party” in Florida — which real movement tea partiers say is a hoax designed to split the GOP vote. Second — and potentially worse for the first-term Grayson — was the release of a public poll earlier this week that showed Grayson trailing Republican nominee Daniel Webster by seven points.
Grayson categorically dismissed the poll, which was published in the right-leaning Sunshine State News and was conducted by a firm owned by Republican pollster Susquehanna.
“This is a consistently biased pollster that comes up with polling that is not believable,” he said. Grayson pointed to the internal poll he released last month showing him ahead of Republican nominee Webster by 13 points.
“I don’t know how anybody could possibly believe we’ve dropped 20 points,” he said.
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Running for what would be his second term, Grayson said he’s had staff on the ground for a year building out his field operation for the November election. In the end, Grayson said, the operation gives him “tremendous advantages” he’ll use to win in November.
It’s no secret that Grayson, the poster child for the angry left on Capitol Hill these days, is a top target for Republicans this fall. Though taking him out of Congress might be a bittersweet victory for the Republicans — who have raised a fortune in campaign contributions off Grayson even as they have suffered his rhetorical slings and arrows. The NRCC has publicly stated that removing Grayson from his Orlando district is near the top of the GOP’s list this fall.
Grayson said the pressure of running against the entire GOP has been a boon for him. “It’s one of the fundamental reasons we can raise the money we have.”
Prognosticators rate the race a “tossup,” though voter registration has been trending Democratic in a district that in 2008 was considered “marginal.” Grayson said that shift in registration is a key to his victory this November.
“I don’t know of a single other district in the country where the actual, physical registration has gone up for Democrats this year,” he said.
Grayson still faces a tough fight, regardless of his optimism. National money is pouring into FL-8 from both sides, and Grayson is about as polarizing a Democrat as there is in a year when even moderate Republicans are getting the bum’s rush from voters. And rumors that he helped start the Florida Tea Party to split the GOP vote haven’t gone away, despite — as Grayson says — no one being able to prove anything.
This week, Grayson was subpoenaed to testify in a civil case brought by movement tea praters who say that the Florida Tea Party — which is fielding candidates all across the state, including in Grayson’s race — is a hoax set up by Democrats to split the vote. Republicans charge that the Tea Party candidate running in the Eight District, Pamela Dunmire, was placed on the ballot with Grayson’s help. The story has been floating around for months, and thanks to the subpoena it’s likely to stick around until at least two weeks before election day.
Grayson completely dismissed the case, calling it a “stunt” that “has nothing to do with me.”
“The people who think I am behind the Florida Tea Party also think I was on the grassy knoll,” he said.