That’s what National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar calls Alan Grayson, and he’s potentially correct. Grayson, who makes Harry Reid look like the model of comportment on Capitol Hill, flamed out of his Congressional seat in 2010, only to make a comeback in a new Florida district more suited to his partisan antics. He has considered a run for the Senate seat left open by Marco Rubio’s presidential bid since at least February, and he’s not letting an avalanche of bad press from his divorce stop him. That’s bad news for Democrats, Kraushaar predicts:
In the battle for the Senate, Democrats are off to a strong start. They’ve recruited two well-liked former officeholders to run in key Ohio and Wisconsin battleground races. Early polling shows many of their challengers running competitively. Other brand-name recruits, such as New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan and former Sen. Kay Hagan of North Carolina, are waiting in the wings. But threatening to upend their early successes is an outspoken, acerbic congressman in Florida whose volatility is legendary and who could blow up the party’s best-laid plans.
Rep. Alan Grayson is the Todd Akin of the Democrats—except that he’s louder, more outrageous, and has millions of his own fortune to spend however he sees fit. And Democrats are nervously expecting the former trial lawyer to enter the pivotal Senate race, challenge the candidate party leaders view as more electable, and raise holy hell in the process.
To start, I’d say that Kraushaar is being a little generous to Democrats in the first paragraph. In Wisconsin, they’ve dug up Russ Feingold, who lost to Ron Johnson by a not-insignificant amount in 2010, and the state has been electing Republicans ever since [see update below]. Ohio Democrats have similarly resurrected Ted Strickland, who lost to John Kasich in 2010. They may be well-liked, but they’re both retreads. That’s not to say they have no chance, but both lost their last statewide elections.
Back to Grayson. Democrats need four takeaways in 2016 to win control of the Senate, and Florida’s open seat seems like a great opportunity. On paper, with his mouth shut, Grayson looks like the kind of candidate they’d want — Congressional experience, a solid district, and the ability to self-fund to some extent. The problem is that Grayson’s mouth is rarely shut, and he says the kinds of things that Republicans can nationalize against the Democrats in exactly the same way that Democrats nationalized Todd Akin:
The list of Grayson’s greatest hits is long—and contains equal-opportunity vitriol against Republicans, Democrats, and reporters alike. He reportedly called Murphy a “piece of shit” when recently meeting with DSCC Chairman Jon Tester. In the run-up to a 2010 landslide loss against GOP Rep. Daniel Webster, he aired an ad labeling his opponent as “Taliban Dan” and, without basis, accused him of wanting to outlaw divorce for abused women. Grayson called a Federal Reserve adviser a “K Street whore” and told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews that Dick Cheney has blood “dripping from his teeth” when talking. He threatened a conservative constituent with five years of prison time for launching a website titled mycongressmanisnuts.com. Most recently, he asked Tampa Bay Times political reporter Adam Smith whether he was some kind of “shitting robot” when confronted with questions surrounding his offshore investments.
Smith, amused by the attack, changed his Twitter avi to a cartoon of a robot doing, er, what robots might do, so to speak. Most people don’t find Grayson amusing, though, especially Democrats who get held accountable for it. Running in a safe district for Congress is one thing — those races are rarely nationalized, and the House has always featured a few colorful characters. Senate races are now always nationalized, as the GOP discovered with Akin, and calling people whores and “pieces of shit” have national consequences.
That presumes that the media wants to nationalize embarrassing remarks from a Democrat — a rather large assumption. The Akin meltdown hurt Republicans not because voters in every state organically followed the Missouri election, but because reporters in every state demanded that Republicans support or disavow Akin’s comments. Will reporters demand that Strickland and Feingold answer for Grayson’s threats to jail critics? Will Claire McCaskill get asked to weigh in on the use of the term “whore” in politics? I’d say it’s doubtful.
But who knows? Grayson is the loosest of loose cannons, one who may uncork something so profoundly offensive that it forces the media to nationalize it. We’ll see if the media sauce is as good for the Democratic goose as it is for the Republican gander when that happens.
Addendum: Kraushaar also points out that Grayson’s messy divorce might cause Democrats problems. I actually think that’s a non-issue. Grayson comes off more as a victim in that case — his wife admitted to bigamy, for instance — and it’s unlikely that voters will care about it. Grayson generates so much more interesting material all on his own that the divorce will almost certainly be a footnote.
Update: Wisconsin has elected a Republican governor and legislature ever since, but they also elected Democrat Tammy Baldwin to the Senate in 2012, riding Obama’s coattails. Thanks to reader Erik S for the correction.