All eyes are on the presidential election these days, whether at HuffPost or elsewhere, so I figure I'll zig while y'all zag. Because, you know, there's other things to dwell on come November. The distant, but ever-more-likely, possibility of a filibuster-proof, 60-seat majority in the Senate, for example.
That assumes, of course, that the Dems can pick up Alaska, Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Virginia and Mississippi while staving off defeat in Louisiana. OK, OK... kind of a long shot, but if the grand jury comes back with indictments for Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska before November, polls showing the Dems leading in Mississippi and Louisiana hold up, and Tom Allen can find a way to win in Maine, it ain't all that far fetched. Hell, consider the fact that North Carolina Senator Liddy Dole is leading by less than half a dozen points against newly minted opponent Kay Hagan, and the Democrats even start to have other options to get to the magic number of 60. Then again, if alleged Democrat Joe Lieberman jumps ship (yeah, yeah, I know he's an independent, I'm referring here to his membership in the Democratic caucus), they'll need to get to 61 anyway.
But enough Senate talk. I dwell on these poll numbers like a guy running a sports book looks at team stats, but I can't advocate such behavior. Political junkie-ism is a debilitating disease. Besides, here in South Florida, the big game outside of the weird delegate situation that has left a lot of voters cold is the House of Representatives. Namely, the fact that the last three Republican representatives in South Florida -- Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Mario Diaz-Balart and Lincoln Diaz-Balart -- are all facing serious opposition for the first time.
Over at my 9-to-5 gig, my column last week included interviews with two of the Democratic challengers, Annette Taddeo and Joe Garcia. The column itself, like most of my weekly scriblings, was aimed at an audience that might not have been completely familiar with the political-season behavior of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Short version: Despite being co-chair of the DCCC's Red-to-Blue Committee, which raises money for Democratic challengers to Republican House incumbents, Wasserman Schultz has said she will not actively campaign for the three South Florida Democrats, citing close ties to their Republican opponents. Back in March, this caused eye-popping outrage throughout the blogosphere. Wasserman Schultz's other positions, including a voting record for which any progressive could be proud, an openness to the idea of arresting Karl Rove, and a leadership role in the Democratic response to the Schiavo fiasco, all seemed instantly forgotten amid cries that she be tarred, feathered, and catapulted into Lake Okeechobee.
But what about the challengers themselves? Amid all the demands for blood atonement, we didn't hear a whole lot from the actual candidates that Wasserman Schultz snubbed. I asked both Taddeo and Garcia for their take.
"I really look forward to serving with her in Congress," Taddeo replied. "I admire her for what a leader she has been on all the positions on which I am in line with her. And I am sure that we will together be fighting for those same issues. I don't really have anything more to say about that."
It was an elegant dance. Taddeo is brand new to the political scene, though, and one could hardly expert her to tear apart a congresswoman who, much less a Floridian and a Democrat, is also one of the party's fastest-rising stars. But Joe Garcia? Well, ol' Joe's different. The outgoing chair of the Democratic Party of Miami-Dade County, Garcia is far from a political newcomer. So, when responding to Wasserman Schultz's claim that she had to work with South Florida's Republicans, he expressed incredulity, and he did so pointedly. Razor-sharp pointedly:
Exactly what would they work together on? Cutting children's health care? Not bringing federal dollars to the district? Voting against the environment? Voting against better jobs? She may have to work with them, but the truth is if you look at their voting records and you look at Rep. Wasserman Schultz's voting record, they are very different. So, apparently, it's better to have a good time at a cocktail party than solve problems. Look, I have no doubt that Debbie Wasserman Schultz is going to be standing next to me when this election is done. [...] I understand that she's in a tough position because she has served with Mario and Lincoln for a long time, but there comes a point when you've got to do what's right for your community. And I think she's going to do that. I have to say I have the utmost respect for her, I think she's going to be one of my leaders when I go to Congress, but I think we should leave it at that. I think at some point, she's going to have to reconcile her views and her values with cocktail parties with Mario Diaz-Balart. And hopefully views and values are more important than being able to smile across the aisle at a guy who votes against every sane thing that most people want.
With Democratic challengers like Garcia, who rightly dismiss the votes of the Diaz-Balart boys as, well, insane, it's going to be a fun couple months between now and November.