It’s been a tough week for Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Forced out of her position as chair of the Democratic National Committee on the eve of the party’s convention in Philadelphia, she was booed and heckled at a breakfast hosted by her home state Monday morning, an embarrassing scene that led to her relinquishing her scheduled appearance gaveling in the convention. Now, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), the House Democrats’ official campaign arm, has confirmed that it will not be funding her campaign.
According to a report by Roll Call, New Mexico Congressman Ben Ray Luján, the DCCC Chairman, told Wasserman Schultz that even though incumbent protection was a priority for the DCCC, providing financial support to her primary battle with law professor Tim Canova would not be.
“The question I was asked is: Does the DCCC get involved in primaries or in races with incumbents?” said Luján. “And what we shared with Debbie…is that priority for the DCCC is always incumbent protection, but that where the resources go when it comes to TV buys and helping in that specific way, [they go to] the most competitive seats around the country — so typically the front line districts and red-to-blue districts and emerging districts.”
Luján also noted that Wasserman Schultz’s district is viewed as a safe Democratic seat, a view held by nearly all political observers, so from the perspective of the DCCC, there’s little chance of the Democrats losing the seat. Whether the name of the Democrat holding that seat will be Wasserman Schultz or Canova remains to be seen.
Canova surprised many with the strength of his primary challenge, and he received an enormous boost when he was endorsed by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton‘s only real challenger in the Democratic presidential primary. Sanders has been a loud and vocal supporter, frequently criticizing Wasserman Schultz for being, in his view, insufficiently progressive.
The grumbling frustration felt by many Sanders supporters about the DNC exploded a few days ago after Wikileaks published hacked emails showing Wasserman Schultz and other DNC staffers criticizing Sanders and showing favoritism to Clinton. Sanders had already been calling for Wasserman Schultz to resign as DNC chair for months, and the emails proving that his accusations of unfair treatment were correct were the final straw in pushing her to turn in her resignation on Sunday.
Normally, an incumbent member of Congress with the national television exposure and national fundraising network that Wasserman Schultz has would have little to fear, and the DCCC funds would be unneeded. But 2016 has been a remarkably unique year for American politics, and Wasserman Schultz is not immune to that.
She has not faced a primary challenger since her time in the Florida Legislature, and her Congressional elections have been cakewalks until now. She was unopposed in 2004 in the Democratic primary when Rep. Peter Deutsch left Congress to run for the U.S. Senate, and since then has easily swatted away Republican challengers by a two-to-one margin most years, sometimes even greater. She didn’t have an opponent at all in 2006.
The angry reception Wasserman Schultz received Monday morning at a breakfast hosted by her fellow Florida Democrats may be a sign that her troubles are just beginning. The atmosphere in the room was so hostile, she was literally run out of the room and cancelled her scheduled appearance on the stage at the Democratic Convention, undoubtedly worried about creating a similar scene in front of national television cameras.
It’s only been a few days, but it does seem likely that this will inure to Canova’s benefit. He saw a fundraising spike last quarter thanks to Sanders’ help, raising about $400,000 more than Wasserman Schultz, but she still had more cash on hand, just over $1.6 million to Canova’s just under $1 million.
But that advantage has already narrowed: Canova’s campaign told The Miami Herald that they had raised more than $100,000 in just the little more than one day since Wasserman Schultz resigned.
Wasserman Schultz may regret taking the trip to Philadelphia at all. It’s generated reams of negative headlines for her, while Canova skipped the convention altogether to continue campaigning in the district, as well as responding to a growing number of media requests.
“I have not left the district in eight months,” Canova told the Herald. “That’s not going to change between now and Aug. 30. I don’t think there’s going to be a great need for me to go up to Philly and chase the spotlight. We’re making friends on the ground every day.”
Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to headline a fundraiser for Wasserman Schultz on August 5. If that gets cancelled for even a slightly questionable excuse, that would be the ultimate sign that the Democratic Party establishment had given up on her.
The Florida primary is on August 30.
Photo via Flickr.
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter: @rumpfshaker.