Challenge to Rubio by Demings Could Shift Senate Battle Strategy
(Bloomberg) -- A challenge to Florida GOP Senator Marco Rubio by Democratic Representative Val Demings next year has the potential to reshape the strategies of both parties in the contest for Senate control.
A bid by Demings -- one of the managers of the first impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump and a former Orlando police chief -- in the view of Democratic officials would put Florida in play for 2022, expanding the Senate battleground, according to a Democrat with knowledge of the party’s strategy.
Demings’ plans to enter the Senate race were first reported by Politico and confirmed by an adviser. Representative Stephanie Murphy, a chair of the Blue Dog Coalition of moderates, reportedly is also considering a run.
Democrats have struggled in recent election cycles in Florida, a state that has historically been narrowly divided between the two parties. Demings, 64, has handily won in her Orlando-area district since first being elected in 2016 and she gained national prominence with her role in the impeachment proceedings. She also was on President Joe Biden’s early list as a possible running mate.
Republicans, including the incumbent, expressed confidence in their position.
“They’re going to have a candidate, they’re going to have a primary, other people are going to run, reportedly, and whoever they run, I look forward to it,” Rubio, 49, said Tuesday in a brief hallway interview.
Chris Hartline, spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said Rubio, who was first elected in 2010, “will have a big win in 2022 no matter who the Democrats throw at him.”
With 34 Senate seats on the ballot in 2022, there are a handful that will likely decide the balance of control in the 50-50 Senate, along with it Biden’s future ability to confirm Supreme Court and other nominees and pass additional pieces of his agenda.
Among Democrats best hopes of gaining seats are Wisconsin and Pennsylvania -- two states won by Biden -- while Republicans are hoping to win back seats they just lost in Arizona and Georgia and could challenge in other battleground states like New Hampshire and Nevada.
In addition to Pennsylvania, where Pat Toomey had decided not to run again, there are several other open GOP seats, with Roy Blunt of Missouri, Rob Portman of Ohio and Richard Burr of North Carolina all headed for the exits, though Biden lost all of those states. Lawmakers are also watching to see whether Republican Chuck Grassley runs for another term in Iowa. Grassley has been sending out numerous fundraising emails - including one Tuesday from Rubio - but has not yet said he will run.
Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, a close ally of Trump, also has yet to announce his plans. If he runs, he would be the only Republican incumbent in a state won by Biden.
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