The day after the Times piece ran, Harry Reid responded by all but ordering Grayson to drop out of the race. In a statement asserting that Grayson had disqualified himself from serving in the Senate, Reid fumed: “Alan Grayson used his status as a congressman to unethically promote his Cayman Islands hedge funds, and he should drop out of the Senate race immediately. His actions aren’t just disgraceful to the Democratic Party, they disgrace the halls of Congress.” This was quite a smackdown, observes Manley: “Usually leaders don’t get involved in primaries.”
Just last week (one day after the PPP poll broke), both President Obama and Vice President Biden endorsed Grayson’s opponent, Murphy. Biden is on tap to campaign with Murphy later this month, and Murphy is expected to get even more party support between now and late August, when Florida primary voters cast their ballots.
Grayson remains unbowed by the forces amassing against him. “These are desperate measures by unscrupulous people,” he assures me, asserting that the allegations against him “are nonsensical.” This is, he says, all about party leadership carrying Patrick Murphy’s water: “They are desperate to have their Wall Street errand-boy flunkie get the nomination so he can carry on the great tradition of selling out the voters.”
Is Grayson concerned that opposition from party leaders will hurt him with donors? “They’re doing their best to disrupt the fundraising from what might be referred to as the conventional sources,” he says. “Certainly they’re making a concerted effort to prevent big donors and special interests from contributing to my campaign. All that really does is simply infuriate my national base of small donors.” If anything, insists Grayson, the establishment’s “shenanigans” and “smear campaign” have fattened his coffers. “We raised twice as much money in February as in January—more than in the entire fourth quarter of last year.”
And does he worry at all that his legendary, um, outspokenness will hurt him in a statewide race? “No! Why else would I be up by 11 points in the primary and six in the general?” He pauses. “We—actually, I don’t think we’ve put that out yet. Our own polling shows us up an average of six or seven points over all the Republican opponents. There! I’m not taking it back. I said it.”
Then he’s back on track. “The fact is that people respect my honesty,” he says. “They respect my genuineness. They respect my authenticity. This is the year for that—not the year to be a kiss-up to the failed party bosses who put us in the predicament we’re in.”
Besides, he says, unable to resist one more dig, “I think Harry Reid is one of the most reviled people in politics today. The last thing you want is an endorsement from Harry Reid. He’s been a bag man for special interests for a generation now!”
Democratic players at both the state and national level insist that the race is still young and that, as voters start really paying attention, Grayson will fade. (Indeed, most polls show the bulk of Florida voters as still undecided.) But Grayson’s ability to threaten Murphy suggests it’s not just Republicans who need to watch out for hostile takeovers by outrageous outsiders. As Cate observes, “If we wound up with a Senator Grayson and a President Trump, this would be a scary place to live.”