Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s toxic brew of fierce partisanship and eyebrow-arching statements has been alienating moderate voters and raising conservatives’ ire ever since she assumed the position in May. “DWS” has arrived on the national stage with a bang, exhibiting a contentious relationship with the truth and a special knack for incendiary rhetoric. Given her prominent role as a top party spokesperson, fundraiser and cheerleader, some of Wasserman Schultz’s critics may forget that she simultaneously wears another hat: Three-term Congresswoman from Florida’s 20th Congressional District. Karen Harrington wants to strip DWS of that title in 2012.
A local businesswoman and relative political novice, Harrington is gearing up for a second run at DWS in the upcoming general election. Last year, she cobbled together a rag-tag, under-funded campaign, and fell to the incumbent by a 61-39 margin. This time, she says, could be different: “We didn’t know what we were doing [in 2010]. We ran a short, five-month campaign and didn’t have very much money. This time we’ll have 18 months, and we’ve brought [Florida Senator] Marco Rubio’s finance chairman on board. We’re traveling the district and the state introducing ourselves. A lot of people really don’t like Debbie.”
Although 2010 marked the first time in DWS’ Congressional career that she attracted less than 70 percent of the vote, Harrington readily admits that 2012 will still be an uphill climb. Voter registration runs roughly 2-to-1 Democrat to Republican in the district. Nevertheless, the Harrington campaign views President Obama’s unpopularity – especially in Florida, where only 41 percent of state voters say he deserves a second term, according to a new Quinnipiac poll – as a major vulnerability for their opponent in 2012.
“America realizes that Obama’s policies are failing. It’s Debbie’s job to defend them, and sometimes she blatantly lies in doing that,” Harrington says. If Obama’s dismal numbers don’t improve in the Sunshine State, a reflexive and prominent Obama defender may run into trouble anywhere -- even a left-leaning district that encompasses much of Broward County, and part of Miami Dade.