Republicans have a strong wind at their back heading into November, but one weakness the party must overcome is that, in many House and Senate races, a furious Republican primary electorate, dominated by Tea Party activists, has nominated candidates far more conservative than the constituents they seek to represent.
Democrats across the country are pawing around in the dark, searching for any way to flick a switch and end the political nightmare for incumbents that is 2010. A searing ad against Florida Republican Dan Webster has the challenger reeling and local media focusing attention on his extreme political positions, and it may serve to show a path forward for other Democrats facing challengers with views far outside the mainstream.
Republican operatives acknowledge that's the case in Alan Grayson's Orlando district, where the party faithful nominated former state senate majority leader Dan Webster, backed by religious extremists who push the revisionist view that America was founded as a Christian nation.
In an effort to highlight his more extreme views, Grayson, no slave to the concept of subtlety, has dubbed his opponent "Taliban Dan" in a recently released ad. It's not the kind of centrist positioning that a Washington consultant might recommend, but judging by the response from local media, it's working.
A WKMG reporter told Orlando television audiences, in a coup for Grayson: "Yes, Webster is opposed to all abortions, even for victims of rape and incest, an issue he doesn't want to talk about."
The reporter then proved his assertion by showing a damning clip of Webster refusing to answer a question from the reporter on the subject. Watch the clip of Webster stonewalling a reporter:
As HuffPost reported recently, "Taliban Dan" has company in his insurgency against abortion laws, as an increasing number of Republican nominees, either under pressure or directly propelled by the Tea Party, have taken the line that abortion should be illegal even under circumstances such as rape or incest.
Watch Grayson's ad:
The ad also highlights other extreme positions held and votes cast by Webster. He introduced a bill in 1990 that would outlaw divorce, even in cases of domestic violence. (Florida House bill 1586, introduced in 1990, according to the Grayson campaign.)
"Wives, submit yourself to your own husband," Grayson's ad has Webster saying, a belief that's in line with a strange group he's a member of called the Institute for Basic Life Principles. "She should submit to me. That's in the Bible."
Webster is far from alone among Republican challengers in holding such positions, but is one of the few being pressed on them. Webster's campaign manager didn't respond to requests for comment.
UPDATE - Sept. 27 - 2:44 p.m.: The Webster campaign provided a statement that includes comment from Webster's wife and from his spokesman decrying Grayson's "gutter politics." The full statement is posted below:
This weekend Alan Grayson released his third negative television advertisement against Daniel Webster. So far, Grayson's negative ads have outnumbered his positive ads (3-2). It is clear that Mr. Grayson would rather talk about issues from twenty years ago than the issues of the past two years. First Grayson mislead voters about a stairway, then he misleads them regarding Mr. Webster's inability to serve in our military, and now Grayson compares Webster to the Taliban.
"Alan Grayson's latest attack on my husband is shameful. Mr. Grayson seems to have a problem telling the truth and no problem misleading the public," said Sandy Webster, who has been married to Daniel for thirty-eight years. "Dan has been an amazing husband and father, and the finest man I have ever known. Mr. Grayson should be ashamed of his nasty smears against my husband."
Alan Grayson compares Webster to the Taliban, but the odd thing is that Grayson doesn't even support our troops efforts in the Middle East to combat the Taliban or other Muslim extremist groups.
"Alan Grayson is at it again, misleading voters with nasty negative ads against Senator Webster. Mr. Grayson is certainly no champion of respecting women, he even publicly called a woman a 'K Street whore.' To compare Daniel Webster to the Taliban is ludicrous," said Webster Spokesman, Brian Graham. "Alan Grayson is simply trying to distract voters from his record of higher taxes, increased debt, and rising unemployment. Central Florida deserves better than Mr. Grayson's gutter-politics."
Daniel Webster, a family man and small-business owner, has dedicated himself to serve the citizens of central Florida with honor and integrity. Daniel Webster served as Majority Leader of the Florida Senate and the first GOP Speaker of the House in over a century.
Daniel Webster has been endorsed by the National Rifle Association, the American Conservative Union, the House Conservatives Fund, Governor Jeb Bush, Governor Mike Huckabee, Governor Bob Martinez, US Senator George LeMieux, US Senator Connie Mack, Congressman Mike Pence, Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson, former Comptroller Bob Milligan, former Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher, former Secretary of State Sandra Mortham, Orange County Mayor Rich Crotty, Orange County Clerk of Court Lydia Gardner, Orange County Property Appraiser Bill Donegan, Orange County Commissioner Fred Brummer, Orange County School Board Member Christine Moore, former RPOF Chairman Tom Slade, former Senate President Ken Pruitt, former RPOF Chairman Van Poole, former Senate President Tom Lee, former Speaker Tom Feeney, former Senate President John McKay, former Speaker Allan Bense, and former Senate President Jim Scott.