When Edward Everett Hale penned his classic tale of Lieutenant Philip Nolan he chose to call it The Man Without a Country. Given the rapidly changing political landscape in Florida this month, I’m getting the feeling that Congressman David Jolly (R – FL13) is feeling something akin to Nolan. After making headlines in 2014 with his first successful run(s) for Congress, Jolly moved fairly quickly last year to announce that he was abandoning his post and taking a shot at Marco Rubio’s presumably vacant Senate seat. That may no longer be an option however, with Rubio looking for all the world like he’s changing his mind and sticking around, so Jolly had to similarly backtrack and run for another full term in the house. But as Roll Call reports, the NRCC (who spent a ton of money getting him there in the first place) may not even want him.
House Republicans aren’t ready to welcome back David Jolly.
The Tampa-area congressman announced Friday that he would forgo his Florida Senate campaign and run for re-election , saying that he had “unfinished business” in the House.
But instead of cheering Jolly’s decision, some fellow Republicans are instead making plain that they’re not eager to help their colleague return to the House. They’re frustrated with Jolly’s perceived lack of cooperation with fellow House Republicans and the National Republican Congressional Committee, which they believe dragged Jolly into his current House seat during his 2014 special election victory…
“You would think there would be a little bit of appreciation that would be shown,” said Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, who was deputy chairman of the NRCC from 2012-14. “As far as I know, from what I’ve heard, there hasn’t been with the NRCC. So it makes people wonder, are we really going to jump into this thing again?”
Jolly’s situation is complicated on a number of levels. First of all, as noted above, he needed significant help in winning a special election in his district in 2014 to fill the seat which came available when Congressman Bill Young passed away. Then he had to run again in November. But since that time, he’s not really held up his end of the bargain in fundraising with the NRCC, going so far as to say that he wouldn’t even accept direct contributions for his Senate campaign. He didn’t win any friends that way.
But also, thanks to a state supreme court order, his district has been redrawn and it’s now heavily Democratic. He’s also running against Charlie Crist, who has been down that road a few times already and can raise plenty of cash. The race may not even be winnable for an incumbent at this point, a reality which Jolly himself has acknowledged. All of that adds up to a delicate situation with the NRCC.
For their part, the Committee might be breathing a sigh of relief. The Atlantic’s Russell Berman makes the argument that, absent a Senate run, the NRCC never really intended to support Jolly in the first place.
Still, the party might be able to forgive all of that, except for one thing: Jolly’s seat was never one they planned on contesting, and it might not be winnable even with him in the race. Redistricting made Florida’s 13th district more Democratic, and Crist won the area even in the years that he lost statewide. The NRCC was never planning to spend money on the race; Jolly’s disloyalty gives the committee an excuse not to support him. While Jolly could certainly use the financial help, his flap with party leaders should help him promote himself as an independent reformer, which might not hurt in a year full of anti-establishment sentiment.
That sounds about right. The NRCC only exists to win and hold House seats for the GOP. With that mission in mind, they would normally be obligated to try to help Jolly. But with the race looking like a lost cause to begin with, the lack of perceived cooperation over the last two years gives them a perfect excuse to pull the rip cord and leave Jolly to flounder. I have no idea why Charlie Crist would want to go to the House of Representatives after the career he’s had, but his path is looking fairly clear at the moment.