Obama, Biden wade into Florida Senate race, back Murphy

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) – President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden jumped into Florida’s contentious Senate primary Wednesday and backed former moderate U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy over fiery liberal Congressman Alan Grayson for the seat Republican Marco Rubio is giving up for his White House run.

The endorsements are a huge boost for Murphy, a former Republican who had already built a long list of endorsements from prominent Democrats in Washington and Florida. The rush to back Murphy, who’s seen by party leaders as more electable, comes in a state Democrats need if they have any hope of regaining power in the Senate.

“Patrick has been a tireless champion for middle-class families and a defender of the economic progress that American workers and businesses have made,” Obama said in a release issued by Murphy’s campaign.

Biden plans to campaign with Murphy in Florida on March 28.

“The President, the Vice President and I share the same values and commitment – strengthening Social Security and Medicare for our seniors, protecting a woman’s right to choose, and growing America’s middle class,” Murphy said in the release. ”

Murphy, 32, is a second term congressman from a district that includes part of Palm Beach county and areas to the north. Grayson, 57, is from Orlando and is known as the congressman who made national headlines by saying the Republican health care plan is to “die quickly” if people get sick.

The primary has become nasty, with Murphy repeatedly pointing out that the House Ethics Committee is investigating Grayson over questions raised by a hedge fund he manages that until recently was based in the Cayman Islands. Grayson repeatedly criticizes Murphy as an ex-Republican who donated to Mitt Romney’s 2008 presidential campaign and who has voted with the GOP on several key issues.

The Obama and Biden endorsements come nine days after Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid said Grayson should drop out of the race. Grayson has responded to the criticism by lashing out at the Democratic Party’s Washington establishment. In emails to supporters, he is referring to the party as the “UnDemocratic Party” and has said it’s run by corrupt, mendacious, sellout losers.

The Grayson campaign responded by striking out at what it called the “Democratic politburo.”

“The anti-Democratic Party Establishment is desperate to drag Grayson’s opponent, their do-nothing, errand boy for Wall Street, over the finish line. But Florida voters in both parties are fed up with egregious manipulation by outside forces to dictate our candidates,” campaign spokesman David Damron wrote in an email.

Democratic strategist Steve Schale, who ran Obama’s 2008 Florida campaign and helped the president carry the state again in 2012, said the endorsements will help Murphy raise money and secure even more support among party leaders. He said the move was more likely about helping Murphy win the general election than getting past Grayson.

“It’s hard for me to see a scenario where the Democrats win a majority in the Senate without winning Florida,” Schale said. “They’re trying to ensure that we’re in the strongest possible position to pick up the four seats we need in the Senate to take back the majority and that’s why they got in early.”

Murphy has raised $5.7 million while Grayson ended the year with just more than $211,000 in his campaign account.

Republicans seeking the seat are U.S. Reps. Ron Desantis and David Jolly, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera and businessmen Todd Wilcox and Carlos Beruff. Florida’s primary will be held Aug. 30.

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