The list of Grayson's greatest hits is long—and contains equal-opportunity vitriol against Republicans, Democrats, and reporters alike. He reportedly called Murphy a "piece of shit" when recently meeting with DSCC Chairman Jon Tester. In the run-up to a 2010 landslide loss against GOP Rep. Daniel Webster, he aired an ad labeling his opponent as "Taliban Dan" and, without basis, accused him of wanting to outlaw divorce for abused women. Grayson called a Federal Reserve adviser a "K Street whore" and told MSNBC's Chris Matthews that Dick Cheney has blood "dripping from his teeth" when talking. He threatened a conservative constituent with five years of prison time for launching a website titled mycongressmanisnuts.com. Most recently, he asked Tampa Bay Times political reporter Adam Smith whether he was some kind of "shitting robot" when confronted with questions surrounding his offshore investments.
Grayson also is enmeshed in an ugly divorce battle with his wife of 24 years, who has accused him of domestic abuse. He's vigorously denied the allegations, and has accused her ofengaging in bigamy and being a "gold digger."
"On a professional level, before he went to Congress he was a wealthy trial lawyer looking for fights to make a living. That's what he had to do. In 2010 [when he lost his first reelection], Alan Grayson proved to me that when the going got tough, he completely lost control," said Florida-based Democratic strategist Steve Schale, who led President Obama's campaigns in the state. "My gut says Grayson's looking for a fight. This is a guy whose entire career has been based on looking for a bully to hit. If he says he's probably going to run for the Senate, he's probably going to run for the Senate."
The tricky calculus for the DSCC, which endorsed Murphy early in a bid to dissuade Grayson from running, is that Grayson is so unpredictable that it's hard to plot a strategy designed to limit his destructiveness. Most Senate candidates wouldn't want to give up a cushy lifetime Congressional job to make a long-shot bid at higher office. But Grayson is independently wealthy—the 17th-richest member of Congress, with assets of around $25 million—and derives his prestige through provocation.
Democrats normally have many tools to marginalize a weak candidate, but few of the traditional rules apply to Grayson. He's unlikely to be swayed by promises of subcommittee chairmanships or increased funding in his Orlando-area district. Attacking him as unelectable will only raise his profile further, and amp up the already-explosive rhetoric between the two sides. Schale argued that the DSCC's move endorsing Murphy to unify the party against Grayson is likely to backfire, and raise the odds he jumps in the race.
Making the strategy even more complicated is that Murphy is vulnerable to a challenge on his left. Representing a swing district that voted for Mitt Romney, Murphy has voting record that is one of the most conservative in his caucus. He boasts an 86 percent lifetime vote score with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a better tally than many House Republicans. He's still unknown to most Florida Democrats, given that he represents only a small slice of the expansive state. In fact, Quinnipiac's April survey found Grayson somewhat better-known than Murphy, and despite the controversies, holding a net positive favorability rating.
Kraushaar's obvious concern trolling aside, Alan Grayson vs Patrick Murphy really is the perfect microcosm of the "more Democrats versus better Democrats" debate. Murphy is a safe candidate, but absolutely a Southern Blue Dog, where a loss of Blue Dogs in the South and retirements in the Mountain West cost Dems the Senate big time last year.
Having said that, anything that would piss Josh Kraushaar off is usually a good idea worth doing, and Alan Grayson running for Senate would certainly qualify. There's no question that Patrick Murphy represents the corporate wing of the Dems, but then again, Kirsten Gillibrand was notoriously conservative in her upstate New York House district before becoming a very liberal Senator, so it's not like Murphy can't start leaning more to the left in a statewide race.
We'll see. My gut says that betting on Grayson is risky, but would pay out big time if successful.