Taking Aim at the GOP, Stephanie Murphy Looks Ready to Challenge Marco Rubio in 2022

After years of carefully crafting her image as someone willing to work across the aisle, U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., is starting to go on at the attack against Republicans as buzz builds that she will challenge U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., in 2022.

Murphy has gone after the GOP in national outlets in recent days.

“This disease within the Republican party, it’s up to Republicans to cast it out,” Murphy told the Washington Post. She went even further with NBC, saying, “Imagine what would have happened had the Democrats not held the House, not been in the majority on Jan. 6 — where would we be today?”

Murphy’s shift in her image comes mostly in the wake attack on the Capitol last month. The Central Florida congresswoman is also wary of Republicans that subsequently voted to nullify the results of any state election in the aftermath of that attack, citing the complete lack of evidence the election was stolen.

“They continue to create room for the conspiracy theorists. I don’t know how you make common-sense policy and laws that can help the American people when you live in your own la-la land,” she said.

In the meantime, Murphy’s name is being bandied as a possible challenger to Rubio as Democrats look to reverse their fortunes in the Sunshine State. For now, Murphy is playing coy, saying she has not made any kind of decision like that just yet. She has scheduled “listening sessions” for early March but, in perhaps a tell-tale sign, her website went from www.stephaniemurphyforcongress.com to https://www.stephaniemurphyfl.com/.

As buzz grows that she will challenge Rubio, Murphy wants to get the latest stimulus bill done as quickly as possible.

“I think given the economic impact that this virus and this pandemic has had on people, it’s a risk worth taking, and not one that I’m too concerned about of overheating the economy. In fact, I was just down on the main street in my community and shop owners are still worried,” Murphy told Bloomberg News.“They still don’t see the foot traffic they need to make ends meet. There are still a lot of people who are still suffering and especially in a community like Orlando, where we are heavily dependent on tourism and high-touch industries where people gather. That hasn’t come back yet. So, I think we need to address this pandemic and economic policies, or economic consequences, both with speed and scale.”

Murphy chairs the Blue Dog Coalition in Washington, a group of Democrats committed to fiscal responsibility and a strong national defense, something which the congresswoman knows something about having served in President George W. Bush’s Defense Department.

Still, Murphy is starting to draw fire from the GOP.

The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) noticed Murphy’s change in tone.

“Stephanie Murphy is finally dropping her phony moderate act and admitting she has no desire to work across the aisle and, in fact, thinks Republicans are destroying America,” said Camille Gallo, a spokeswoman for the NRCC, this week.

Gallo also pounced on Murphy’s support of the Biden administration’s stimulus proposal.

“House Democrats’ corrupt COVID package is partisanship at its finest and is filled with unnecessary spending that mostly benefits Democrat special interest groups, not hard-working American families. In fact, 91 percent of the corrupt legislation doesn’t even go to COVID relief!” Gallo noted on Wednesday. “Now, new polling shows 65 percent of respondents don’t want this socialist boondoggle. They prefer targeted relief measures focusing, ‘on only the highest priorities of COVID relief like vaccine distribution and opening schools.’

“Did you really think phony moderate Murphy, who thinks Republicans are destroying America, would put partisanship aside?” Gallo added.

Murphy brought out a video on Wednesday, introducing her to voters across the Sunshine State, another sign that she could challenge Rubio in 2022.

“Florida is not a red state; it’s a hard state. You need the right money, message, and machine to compete and we’ve clearly fallen short over the last few election cycles,” said Murphy. “Now is not the time to lament about the past or to give up, but to come together ahead of 2022. I look forward to many frank and fruitful conversations over the next few months that I know will ultimately lead to a stronger and more effective party. Too many hardworking families have been left behind by the inhumane and incompetent leadership of the Trump-Rubio-DeSantis party, and these struggling families are depending on us to take back our state, to get through this pandemic together, and to put families first again.”

First elected to Congress in 2016 when she upset longtime U.S. Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., Murphy has tried to claim the center on Capitol Hill. Her caucus memberships including helping lead the Democratic National Security Task Force, the Blue Dog Coalition and the Future Forum. Murphy is also a member of the New Democrat Coalition and the Problem Solvers Caucus.

If Murphy runs, she will one of the top contenders for the Democratic nomination to challenge Rubio. Other possible Democratic candidates include U.S. Reps. Charlie Crist, Val Demings and Ted Deutch and former U.S. Reps. Alan Grayson and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell. Former congressional candidate Allen Ellison is already running for the Democratic nomination. Former U.S. Rep. David Jolly, R-Fla., could run against Rubio with no party affiliation.

 

Reach Mike Synan at mike.synan@floridadaily.com.

 

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