Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D)
Hoo boy. Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who is reportedly weighing a Senate run, truly just shot herself in the face. Last year, Wasserman Schultz spoke out against a medical marijuana amendment that went before Florida voters, leading one the measure's top backers, wealthy trial lawyer John Morgan, to attack her publicly
. (Wasserman Schultz incensed supporters by comparing medical marijuana dispensaries to illegal "pill mills"; the measure narrowly went down to defeat.)
Unsurprisingly, Morgan and his allies started making noise recently about how they intend to thwart whatever higher ambitions Wasserman Schultz may have this cycle. That prompted Wasserman Schultz's staff to fire off an embarrassingly transactional proposal to the pro-pot forces via email, in which the congresswoman would offer to trade her support for medical marijuana (organizers are trying again next year) in exchange for a cease-fire.
That infuriated Morgan, who released the emails to Politico and called Wasserman Schultz a "bully." At the same time, another medical marijuana proponent bitingly pointed out that the amendment took 58 percent last year (it needed 60 to pass), making it far more popular than Wasserman Schultz would ever be in a statewide race.
So how did Wasserman Schultz respond on Friday? By simply insisting she never made such an offer, and even claiming her staffers sent no emails! That level of outright denial is almost John McCain-esque, making an already terrible story look even worse for her. And this is the head of the Democratic National Committee, mind you.
But while Wasserman Schultz is digging her own political grave, fellow Rep. Patrick Murphy is building bridges. The well-connected sophomore congressman has been reaching out to donors and the DSCC, and he's apparently talked to ex-Gov. Charlie Crist about his potential Senate bid. Crist, a potential candidate himself, hasn't spoken publicly, but an endorsement or even just his tacit support for Murphy would send a powerful signal.
And Murphy also hasn't run afoul of the medical marijuana brigades. He backed last year's amendment, and he voted in favor of an amendment to block the DEA from spending funds to stop states from implementing medical marijuana laws—a bill Wasserman Schultz opposed, earning her even further ire from medical marijuana supporters.
It's a good example of Murphy's sharp political instincts, and it undercuts the conventional wisdom that Murphy would face an automatic disadvantage against Wasserman Schultz in a Democratic primary thanks to his more centrist voting record. Wasserman Schultz is by no means a model progressive, and Murphy can definitely get to her left on this and other issues (for instance, he's come out as a full-throated backer of net neutrality) without sacrificing his electability in a general election. A primary between the two would still be a messy, bloody affair, but it does not have a preordained conclusion.