WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Democrat from South Florida who doubles as the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, said pundits and politicians are misreading the dynamics of the upcoming midterm election and that her party is in a much stronger position than many realize.
Republicans have a commanding position in the U.S. House. Democrats, meanwhile, hold but a shaky lead in the Senate and are burdened by a Democratic president with weak approval ratings and the historic fact that the president’s party usually does poorly in midterm elections.
And the polls so far don’t suggest things will be any different this time around.
But Wasserman Schultz said the polls are being looked at too narrowly. Ticking off a series of competitive Senate races, she said that Democrats are in a strong position, despite what generic Republican vs. Democrat polls might show.
“The polls that we’re ahead in are the ones the matter the most: the head-to-head polls of our candidate versus their candidate,” she said in a Thursday morning roundtable with Washington reporters. “And in virtually every head-to-head Senate poll recently in the competitive races, our candidates are ahead of their candidates… There’s not a generic candidate on the ballot in November, there’s a real person against a real person.”
The comments came in an event hosted by Third Way, a Washington-based think tank, and well-known journalist Bill Schneider. When Schneider asked about the Democrat’s potentially dismal chances this Fall, he said, “I assume you dispute those projections?”
“Strongly,” she said.
Her reasoning is that the Republican Party has been pulled so far to the right that voters can’t and won’t go with them.
“The contrast between the two parties and the direction that American voters have to choose from has never been more stark, more clear,” she said.
One key piece of evidence involved her South Florida colleague, U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Republican from Miami who last week harshly criticized his party’s leadership over its unwillingness to bring a comprehensive immigration bill to the floor.
“In the more than 20 years I’ve known him I have rarely if ever heard him say one bad word about the Republican Party or anything they do,” she said. “If you’ve pushed Mario Diaz-Balart over the edge, then you know they have stepped so far off the edge of the right wing that they’ve lost and will lose – they’ve lost many and will lose as a result of their extremism.”
She was also asked for strengths and weakness of Jeb Bush, the former Republican governor of Florida and a potential 2016 presidential candidate. “He is certainly smart, he’s savvy,” she said. “He has a significant network of potential donors from both his own races and his family’s.”
She spent a little more time on his weaknesses.
"I have never encountered a politician with thinner skin than Jeb Bush,” she said. “It has always shocked me how thin his skin is, how defensive and offended he gets by any hint of criticism. It makes it so that he is extremely hard to work with.”