Florida Republican Slayer Rep. Patrick Murphy Launches Bid To Take Rubio’s Senate Seat

On Monday, Florida Democratic Congressman Patrick Murphy announced that he plans to run for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Republican Senator Marco Rubio. Nationally, Murphy’s announcement was overshadowed by Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz’s presidential roll-out at Liberty University.

However, Murphy’s decision may prove more consequential in the long run. Unlike Cruz, Murphy has a strong chance of winning his race. A Murphy victory in Florida would put the Democrats in a strong position to recapture a Senate majority in the 2016 election.

Patrick Murphy represents Florida’s 18th Congressional District, a swing district, north of West Palm Beach that includes the city of Port St. Lucie. Murphy won the seat in 2012, at age 29, making him the youngest member of Congress when he was sworn in, in January 2013. He was re-elected in 2014.


The 2012 race generated national attention because Murphy defeated well-known Tea Party extremist Allen West, in one of the most competitive races in the country. Murphy ended up winning by less than 2,000 votes out of 350,000 votes cast.

Prior to defeating West, Murphy switched from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party in 2011. He left the GOP, disgusted with the party’s shift to the far right. He was especially disenchanted with the Republican Party for mismanaging foreign policy during the Iraq War. Former Florida Republican Governor Charlie Crist left the Republican Party in 2010, similarly disenchanted with the strident right-wing rhetoric and disastrous policies of the GOP. Both Murphy and Crist are political moderates.

While it remains unclear whether Senator Rubio intends to defend his seat, or whether he will throw his hat into the ring for President, Murphy wasted no time denouncing Rubio, noting that:


For years, Senator Rubio has put the needs of Floridians behind his presidential ambitions.

Murphy sounded a bipartisan tone in making his announcement:

I’m running for the U.S. Senate for the same reason I ran for Congress in 2012 — Washington is full of hyper-partisan politicians who can’t, or won’t, get anything done, and Florida deserves better.

I’m a consensus-builder who is working to boost the economy by cutting waste in government, raise the minimum wage, strengthen Social Security and Medicare, and protect the Everglades. I’ve done all of this by being an independent voice for Florida, and that’s what the Senate needs more of right now.

He was careful, however, not to attack fellow House Democrat Alan Grayson (FL-09), who is also considering entering the U.S. Senate race. When asked by a Miami-Herald reporter about Grayson, Murphy refused to denigrate his potential primary opponent, replying instead, by saying:

I know he cares a lot about Florida and I know he has been working hard. I have no idea who else will run.

While Grayson would clearly be the more progressive of the two candidates, should he decide to enter the race, both candidates would be a tremendous upgrade over Senator Rubio.

Murphy would be a formidable candidate. In 2014, he raised five million dollars and crushed his Republican opponent 59.8 to 40.2 percent in what is normally a very competitive U.S. House district. Whether or not Marco Rubio runs to keep his Senate seat, Murphy’s candidacy gives the Democrats strong odds of taking the seat.


View Comments

  • His voting record leaves a lot to be desired but I understand being from a red district. Right now Alan Grayson is making noises and while he may make us feel good can he win statewide in Florida?

    I guess this is a wait and see who else gets in before I make my mind up on who to support.

  • Anyone with an inch of common sense would need to have their 'head examined' if they were to continue to work for an organization like the GOP that tries to achieve things through unpopular extreme policies & insulting rhetoric that shows complete intolerance to those who dare to express a different opinion. Good for Murphy for changing sides; the Dems need all the help they can get.

  • " Murphy ended up winning by less than 2,000 votes out of 350,000 votes cast."

    If he only won by that much against a wacko like Allen West, how does this make him able to beat Rubio?

    • True, Murphy won by a mere 2000 votes, but he won against West, the number one fund raiser in the GOP/TP.
      I would prefer to see Alan Grayson in the US Senate, but Murphy is most likely more electable.

    • A fair question, but the point is Murphy beat West in the most expensive Congressional race in the country in a Congressional District that Mitt Romney defeated Obama in by a 52-48 margin in 2012.

      In other words Murphy over-performed Obama by 4 points in the District (although part of that, it could be argued may be due to Romney being less extreme than West).

      A statewide election would be fought on more favorable turf (Obama carried Florida by 1). Basically that projects out to Murphy winning statewide by 5 points.

      For what its worth, Grayson won his district in 2012 by a 63-37 margin, but Obama beat Romney in his District 61-38, so Grayson over-performed Obama by 3 points...which is not much different than Murphy's 4 point over-performance.

      One way to evaluate House members who run for Senate, is to ask do they outperform or under-perform a "generic Democrat" in their own District. By that standard, both Murphy and Grayson are good candidates, since both outperformed Obama.

  • I question anyone who was a Republican until 2011. Did he change parties strictly for elective purposes? Florida has many life long Democrats with Democratic values.

    • While I think their may have been electoral considerations, the fact that he changed parties and then intentionally took on West in a Republican-leaning District (FL-18), rather than staying in more Democratic friendly (FL-22), leads me to believe that his party switch was mostly motivated by distaste for GOP extremism not by sheer political calculus.

      Allen West, some people may recall, abandoned District 22 after redistricting, for the more GOP-friendly District 18, so he wouldn't lose to Murphy. Murphy then also filed in District 18, famously quipping "There is no safe district he (West) can run to".

      Maybe his motivation was mostly that he didn't like Allen West, but I do think his party shift was legitimate.

      Murphy's voting record is not as progressive as I would like though, but I also sense that he would have the best chance at beating Rubio. If I was in Florida I would roll the dice with Grayson if he runs, unless polls showed him doing significantly worse than Murphy.

  • Actually I can't see a way that Murphy can beat Rubio. I guess they have to have someone run against him. Murphy is actually a republican. He only changed parties a few short years ago. Who else is left. Alan Grayson won't run. His personal life is a real mess. Don't even mention charlie Crist.

  • Would be a nice pickup, but even better would be a return to the senate for Russ Feingold. Ron Johnson has most definitely got to go.

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