She leads in polls, but it’s a lot tighter than it should be.
On Tuesday, voters will decide if former DNC chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz is worthy enough to advance to the election in November after a summer filled with controversy.
She came under fire this summer when “leaked emails showed that staffers at her organization appeared to be plotting ways to undermine the presidential campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).” She resigned as chairwoman on the eve of the DNC.
Polls have shown Wasserman Schultz holds a 10 point lead against law professor Tim Canova, but the race is a lot tighter than it should be for someone who has represented the district since 2004:
“He’s doing better, at least in our polling numbers, than typically a challenger to an incumbent does,” said FAU political scientist Kevin Wagner. “Ideally, if you’re the incumbent, you’d like to have a bigger cushion. But I don’t think there’s an election where a person looks at a poll and sees they’re up by double digits and thinks that’s a bad thing.”
Canova has tried to keep the emails at the forefront, telling media that her tenure as chairwoman became “tiresome for people in the district.” Yet, strategists said he “didn’t capitalize on the controversy surrounding Wasserman Schultz’s resignation” when the two debated this month:
During the debate, Wasserman Schultz condemned an email that showed DNC staffers discussing whether to go after Sanders’s religion, saying she never would have approved it.
Canova highlighted another email in the hack that showed Wasserman Schultz complaining to MSNBC about negative coverage, suggesting she wasn’t entirely in support of free speech. But later in the debate, Canova said he agreed with Wasserman Schultz that the emails weren’t an issue most important to voters.
“This was a prime opportunity to jump on the negative attention going to Wasserman Schultz after she resigned as party chair. But Canova hasn’t been effective in translating that into voter anger,” said Sean Foreman, a political science professor at Barry University.
Canova received endorsements from Sanders, but the former presidential candidate has remained absent as the election moved closer. At first he expressed disappointment, but then changed his mind and said a Sanders appearance could become a distraction instead of something helpful:
Reflecting on the race as it comes to a close, Canova seems to wonder if Sanders’ help was more trouble than it’s worth. “Bernie is not on the ballot, and I think coming here might have presented certain liabilities anyway, so it might be a blessing that he never came,” Canova told NBC News.
Wasserman Schultz, on the other hand, has received endorsements from Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who also won the district in the primary by a large margin, Vice President Joe Biden, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi:
“Barack Obama is relatively popular there among the Democrats, as is Hillary Clinton. That support translates pretty well” for Wasserman Schultz, Wagner said. A candidate like Canova who is challenging the system “would probably do better in a district that is more dissatisfied with the Democratic leadership.”
However, Canova hopes the 10 point poll lead is wrong, thinking it may have missed the younger “supporters who don’t typically turn out for an August primary:”
“Our ground game is so big that we’ve really expanded the field,” Canova said. Indeed, flush with more than 200,000 donations averaging $22 a piece, Canova has built what allies tout as possibly the largest field program of any congressional race in the country—four field offices, 40 paid staffers, and hundreds of volunteers.
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