Florida's Alan Grayson is one of a handful of House Democrats representing swing districts who is flouting the conventional wisdom that the way to win over such a constituency is to run as a moderate. Instead, he's running as a strong progressive.
"I've been saying for years now, you can't beat a Republican by being one," Grayson said in an interview with The Huffington Post, adding that Democracy for America has recognized his bold liberalism by naming him their "top hero."
Although Grayson is categorized as a moderate Democrat according to GovTrack.us, a site that records legislative voting records, he has not shied away from casting deciding votes that would put him at odds with Blue Dogs. His was a loud voice advocating for a full audit of the Federal Reserve, which Democrats passed over the objection of the Obama administration.
"There's no 'enthusiasm gap' for Democrats who stand up and lead," said DFA chair Jim Dean in a statement announcing Grayson as one of their top picks.
On Monday, DFA, the group founded by Vermont Gov. Howard Dean's campaign back in 2004, announced its endorsements in the Senate. And their newest picks are, like Grayson, being held up as model progressives.
Incumbent picks include Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), while chosen challengers include Jack Conway, Roxanne Conlin, Paul Hodes (D-N.H.), Elaine Marshall, Scott McAdams and Joe Sestak (D-Pa.).
Many Democratic voters have been frustrated by the extent to which Democratic legislation has been watered down, and some pundits predict they will be too apathetic to show up to the polls. Grayson, for his part, thinks running as a strong progressive is a good approach.
"If you look down the list of the so-called endangered incumbents, it doesn't seem to be working for them," Grayson said when asked about the moderate approach of House Blue Dogs. "But we'll find out in November."
Until his election in 2008, Grayson's district had long been Republican.
"We've completely changed the composition of the district since  because people like a congressman with guts," Grayson said. "The district is entirely different from before I was elected to Congress. [There's been] a six point swing in registration in two and a half years. I don't know if there's any other district in the entire country where you can find a six-point swing in registration in two and a half years. So I think people like what they see. Populism is popular. They like the fact that they know where I stand and that I say what I think. That's why you get that kind of amazing swing in registration in 30 months."
Grayson concedes that his district is growing fast, but he says the surge in Democratic registration cannot be attributed to newcomers.
"We have fewer Republicans in my district than there were four years ago, vastly more Democrats, somewhat more independents, fewer Republicans," Grayson told The Huffington Post. "So it's not a case of people just moving in and deciding to register Democrats, it's people leaving the Republican Party and joining the Democratic party because they like what they see."
And the outspoken congressman isn't averse to thanking himself for that shift.
"I think I can take some credit for it because I'm the first Democrat to represent downtown Orlando in 34 years," he said, "so people see a difference in substance and in style."
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