FL-11-- Is Taliban Dan's Day Of Reckoning Nigh?

There are 5 counties-- or parts of counties-- within the boundaries of Florida's 11th district north of Tampa: Citrus, Hernando, Lake, Marion and Sumter. Retirees from Indiana, Ohio and Michigan drove down I-75 and settled here, a different breed of the retirees from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York and New Jersey who drove down the I-95 to Miami-Dade and Broward counties. I-95 brought Democrats; I-75 brought Republicans. FL-11 went for McCain in 2008 (56%), for Romney in 2012 (59%) and in 2016 Señor Trumpanzee beat Hillary 64.8% to 32.5%. The PVI went from R+11 in 2015 to R+15 last year, the 4th most Republican of Florida's 27 congressional districts.

When longtime incumbent Richard Nugent decided to retire, Orlando area Republican Daniel Webster, sensing FL-10 was too blue for him to be reelected in again, moved his political operation (if not his residence) north to the 11th and beat Democrat David Koller 258,016 (65.4%) to 124,713 (31.6%). Koller had run against Nugent in 2014 with similar results, going down 66.7% to 33.3% to Nugent. Daniel Webster feels secure in "his" new district. Despite the numbers, he shouldn't.

Fast-growing Sumter is the reddest county in the district. It was the worst-performing county in the district for Bernie and in the general it gave Trump 68.8% of its votes, his best performance in FL-11. This week, in a review of Alice Marshall's book, The Precinct Captain's Guide to Political Victory, Heather Rabinowitz, a Sumter County Democratic Party Executive Committee member mentioned that she "made this required reading for all of our precinct captains." Why's that a big deal? Remember what happened in Virginia a few weeks ago? It was as if the grassroots made a collective decision to win the House of Delegates, and they astounded the professional pundits by taking seat after seat after seat that was deemed "impossible." The Precinct Captain's Guide to Political Victory was written in Virginia and the precinct level operatives were all reading it. When we hear that precinct captains are reading that book, it tells us that that committee has decided to actually win.

What does that have to do with a district as red as FL-11 and with the notorious Daniel "Taliban Dan" Webster? Some now think that even if Webster finds the cure for cancer and brings peace to the Middle East and even if the Democrats nominate a ham sandwich, the Democrat will have a real shot at winning. And there's been some talk-- I have no inside information here-- that instead of a ham sandwich, FL-11 Democrats are trying to draft Webster's old nemesis, Alan Grayson to run! Grayson-- the absolute master of grassroots campaigning!

Now, Webster isn't likely to resign, even though he is senile, because:

(1)- he has no other way to make $174,000 a year [his top earnings in his family air-conditioning repair shop was $50K, and no lobbying firm would hire him, because he’s an unpopular dope];
(2)- thanks to a very generous pension plan, for every term he serves, his pension goes up $6,000;
(3)- he has no one at home waiting for him but his unfortunate wife, and that’s certainly not much of a draw;
(4)- all of his staff would be out of a job and completely unemployable, just like his home-schooled kids;
(5)- the thought of his running for higher office is laughable.

Webster still hasn't moved anywhere near "his" new district but he's not likely to lose his primary, because... well, he’s a Man Of God, right? Republicans are confident that he'd win the general even if the Democrats nominated Jesus Christ himself. And the possibility that someone will cut through the mental haze that surrounds Webster and inform him that he is suffering from dementia, and should retire? Well, there's a reed of a chance that could happen but, alas, he likely would forget that conversation entirely, five minutes later.

Alice Marshall told me that in August 2004 the Kerry campaign decided that Virginia was unwinnable, and pulled out their staff. But in Fairfax County, where she was chair of the county's voter registration committee, local Democrats decided that Virginia WAS winnable, "and put their collective shoulder to the wheel. We carried Fairfax for John Kerry. He lost the state, because other committees around the state did not make the same decision, but Kerry won Fairfax, in part, because the local committee decided we were going to win and we did not give a damn about the Kerry campaign or the DNC. In 1999 I was chair of the voter registration committee (I was chair twice, 1998-1999 and 2004-2005). That was the year of the Cathy Hudgins vs Bob Dix race for the Board of Supervisors. Bob Dix was an entrenched Republican incumbent, white male in a district that was/is majority white. He was supported by then Congressman Tom Davis, who actively campaigned for him. Dix raised $320,000. Cathy Hudgins had never run for office. Hudgins is African American. She raised $80,000. Hudgins won. Hudgins won for many reasons, not the least of which the Hunter Mill Democratic Committee was tired of losing and decided to win. My voter registration effort played an important role in all that, but by no means decisive. The collective decision on the part of local Democrats was the decisive element. I regard this as the text book example of people having more power than they think. People have more power then they realize."

And in a wave year-- an anti-Trump/anti-GOP tsunami cycle? And if the candidate is Grayson, not Koller again? Last year Webster spent $1,005,000 to Koller's $57,243. This cycle Webster had a campaign war chest of $67,543 as of the September 30 FEC reporting deadline. Grayson's war chest on that day was $501,268. Fingers crossed the Sumter County precinct workers spread The Precinct Captain's Guide to Political Victory to the Democratic precinct workers in Lake, Hernando, Citrus and Marion counties. In retrospect, this seems ahead of its time:

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