Morning Digest: Democratic poll gives GOP a fighting chance to hold onto Miami House seat
The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, and Carolyn Fiddler, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.
● FL-27: We have dueling internal polls in Florida's GOP-held 27th District, and both of them suggest that Democrats are going to have a tougher time flipping this Miami-area seat than observers thought.
Republican Maria Elvira Salazar released a mid-September survey from McLaughlin & Associates showing her up 51-42 over Democrat Donna Shalala, who responded with an early-September poll from Bendixen & Amandi International giving herself a 46-42 advantage, with 8 percent going to unheralded pro-Trump candidate Mayra Joli. McLaughlin has a reputation for wildly inaccurate polls and has had no qualms about working as the pollster for far-right Hungarian autocrat Viktor Orban in that country's highly flawed spring election. That said, these results aren't exactly reassuring for Shalala.
This heavily Cuban-American district backed Hillary Clinton by 58-38, and although local Republicans have long done better than Trump's awful performance here, even Cuban-American GOP Sen. Marco Rubio lost the 27th by 49.2-48.6 in 2016 despite his 52-44 statewide win. All that should make this open seat one of Democrats' best pickup opportunities nationwide, but a recent Politico profile of Shalala's candidacy gives cause for concern.
Notably, local Democrats expressed worry that Shalala's campaign just doesn’t have its act together. One longtime Shalala critic complained that her campaign is in “sleep mode” and has yet to wake up, and Politico writes that unnamed party insiders agree. Shalala, who is of Lebanese descent, also doesn’t speak Spanish, which could be a big obstacle in a district where the census estimates that 65 percent of adult citizens are Hispanic or Latino.
By contrast, Salazar is a Cuban-American who has worked as a journalist for Telemundo and Univision, and she is at ease switching between English and Spanish-language media. Salazar also has the support of retiring GOP Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a vocal Trump critic who has long been popular in this area.
Shalala could also be still hurt from lingering hostilities from the bruising Aug. 28 primary, where her opponents hammered her with more than $1 million in negative TV ads and mailers. Shalala only won by a surprisingly weak 32-27 over state Rep. David Richardson in the primary, while Salazar more comfortably prevailed over a damaged foe who had little money to bombard her with negative ads. Shalala could thus pick up more support as memories of the primary fade.
Shalala's standing may also improve if she begins heavily airing ads promoting her candidacy and tying her opponent to Trump, who almost certainly remains very unpopular here. Shalala, a former head of the Clinton Foundation, is very well-connected and raised plenty of money during the primary, so she at least shouldn’t need to worry about being able to afford ad time. For now at least, major outside party groups are focusing their attention in the neighboring 26th District and haven’t spent here, so it's possible they don’t think Shalala is in as much trouble as even her poll suggests she’s in.
Daily Kos Elections currently rates this contest as Likely Democratic, but we're keeping an eye on all these developments.