America has seen plenty of bombastic political figures in its time: Huey Long, Jesse Ventura, Marion Barry, Jim Traficant, H. Ross Perot, and plenty more.
But Orlando is a strange corner of the country to generate a figure like Alan Grayson, now blatantly editing clips to support his accusation that his rival, Daniel Webster, is comparable to the Taliban in his views. You wouldn’t expect the nastiest attacks in the country from the district that encompasses Disney World.
Florida’s 8th Congressional District is made up of parts of the counties of Orange, Lake, Marion and Osceola counties, and includes most of Orlando.
Michael Barone’s Almanac of American Politics describes the district, “Disney World is not just an engineering marvel. It requires some 56,000 people with know-how and earnest cheerfulness to entertain its 40 million-plus visitors annually… The high-tech economy also has moved into Greater Orlando. Defense contractor Lockheed Martin has a big missile facility southwest of the city, with more than 6,000 employees. Continuing growth of the downtown skyline and in the expanding metropolitan region – has spurred what may be uphill efforts to control the sprawl and congestion in one of the nation’s booming areas… The 8th District was designed to be a Republican district, though it’s not comfortably so. Some 21.5 percent of residents are Hispanic, most of them not Cubans but Puerto Ricans and people from elsewhere in Latin America; many work in the tourism industry. They favored Republican Govs. Jeb Bush in 2002 and Charlie Crist in 2006, and trended toward President Bush in 2004, when he got 55 percent of the vote. Barack Obama beat John McCain, 52 percent to 47 percent.
Does that sound like a district that warmly embraces the nastiest of campaign tactics and outright lies? Certainly, there’s no tradition of this level of smash-mouth politics here. Republicans represented this region from 1983 to 2009, although the district lines moved around. Grayson’s predecessors in the seat were fairly bland, polite, local Chamber-of-Commerce Republicans like Bill McCollum and Bill Young. Grayson’s immediate predecessor, Ric Keller, got in trouble for breaking a term limits pledge, but he was hardly a fire-breather or ever described as obnoxious. The last Democrat to represent this region in Congress, Andy Ireland, switched parties in 1984 and was reelected to another four terms.
The lead story on the Orlando Sentinel right now? “Orlando house prices: ‘Price Reduced’ becoming the new normal.” Are voters worried about being underwater on their mortgages and never being able to sell? Or are they worried that the GOP challenger secretly shares views with the Taliban?
Finally, I realize Grayson is arguably the biggest jerk to ever serve in Congress, but how confident can he be if he’s trying this stunt?
UPDATE: An NR Cruiser who lives just outside this district observes:
My sense is the voters in FL-8 are embarrassed, more than anything else. There is an ongoing effort to replace Grayson and Kosmos with the same advertising investment (again, same media market), but the voters themselves don’t talk about Grayson, they just hope the topic doesn’t come up. There are no signs, bumper stickers or any other indication out there that an election is even occurring, other than the bizarre Grayson commercials.
I would be completely unsurprised to see Grayson lose in a blowout. The people in Orlando are just *nice* and really, really don’t like confrontational politics.