Rep. Alan Grayson made a name for himself with his no-apologies style and his inflammatory rhetoric. But his latest campaign ads have backfired, driving voters and thousands of dollars in donations to his opponent.
“Democrats, independents, Republicans, all of them are angered at the insult on their intelligence of these ads,” said Brian Graham, spokesman for Daniel Webster, a veteran of the state legislature challenging Grayson in Florida’s 8th district. “Since last week we have probably received 1,000 donations online.”
Grayson has been hitting Webster since before he was the GOP nominee, even. But the saga really began to pick up steam when Grayson questioned Webster’s patriotism, saying he “refused the call to service” during the Vietnam War. FactCheck.org rated the claim false. Webster was deferred for educational reasons, and then for problems with his feet.
Over the weekend, Grayson dropped another bomb, pushing an attack ad likening Webster to religious extremists and calling him “Taliban Dan.” Not only does the spot include video of Webster taken entirely out of context, but it distorts Webster’s legislative record. FactCheck.org weighed in again: “We thought Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson of Florida reached a low point … But now Grayson has lowered the bar even further.”
The effect has been an outpouring of support for Webster. The campaign has received emails from registered Democrats who say they’re voting against their party’s incumbent. And Graham said Webster has received “tens of thousands of dollars” in new donations since the drama started.
“This really began late last week when the claims of Mr. Grayson’s draft-dodger email were really refuted and the media picked up on it, how false they were, that really started to pick us up at the end of last week,” Graham said.
The campaign has been caught in a media whirlwind, and has spoken to, “every local station in central Florida, the Orlando Sentinel, the Daily Caller, Politico — pretty much everyone,” Graham said. Coverage from both CNN and Fox News has helped pushed the story nationwide.
Graham said the donor profile includes “lots from in the district, but there’s a lot from around the country as well.” The total after the last Grayson barrage was in “the tens of thousands” of dollars.
The latest available campaign finance data is from Aug. 4 — over a month ago — but helps illustrate the nature of the challenge. Webster had just over $100,000 in cash compared to Grayson’s $1.4 million. In a pinch, Grayson can invest personal wealth, too. He’s ranked as the 11th richest member of Congress with over $31 million in net worth.
Winning the GOP primary on Aug. 24 has no doubt propelled Webster toward greater fundraising heights, but recent donations and contributors will help push his positive message on the air during the final weeks remaining before Nov. 2.
“And we can always use more,” Graham said. “He’s got a fundraising machine, and he’s got a checkbook.”