Vern Buchanan’s Chances Rise But GOP Odds Drop in Two Florida Congressional Races

With a week and a half to go until Election Day, a prominent national pundit upped one Florida Republican congressman’s odds of keeping his seat even while lowering the GOP’s chances in two other congressional races.

The University of Virginia’s Center for Politics unveiled its latest “Sabato’s Crystal Ball” on Thursday and shifted the odds in three congressional races in the Sunshine State.

With the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) pulling the plug on financially backing David Shapiro, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., saw his district move from “Leans Republican” to “Likely Republican.”

Representing a traditionally swing district, U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fla., saw his chances slip from “Likely Republican” to “Leans Republican” as he faces a serious challenge from Democrat Lauren Baer.

The seat that had been held by former U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., before he resigned last month to focus on his gubernatorial bid also moved from “Likely Republican” to “Leans Republican.” Mike Waltz, an Army colonel who was an aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, looks to keep that seat for Republicans but he faces a serious challenge from former Amb. Nancy Soderberg who worked as a deputy national security advisor for President Bill Clinton.

In the meantime, “Sabato’s Crystal Ball” is keeping the race to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla., as “Leans Republican.” State Rep. Ross Spano is looking to keep for the seat in the GOP column against Democrat Kristen Carlson.

Three seats held by South Florida Republicans are included in the rankings. U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., is running in a race ranked as “Likely Republican.” He faces former Judge Mary Barzee Flores in the general election. In more of a swing district, U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., is only a slight favorite over Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell with the race labeled “Leans Republican.” Democrats are favored to flip the seat currently held by retiring U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., with the race between former U.S. HHS Sec. Donna Shalala and Republican Maria Elvira Salazar considered “Leans Democratic.”

“Sabato’s Crystal Ball” sees Democrats only on the defense in one congressional race in Florida as Republican state Rep. Mike Miller challenges freshman U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., in a race that is “Likely Democratic.”

Both of Florida’s political main events–Gov. Rick Scott’s challenge to U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and the gubernatorial contest between Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and former U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla.–are considered “Toss Ups.”


Kevin Derby can be reached at

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