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Boyd Faces Dog Fight This Fall

The two parties have very divergent views on the status of Florida Democratic Rep. Allen Boyd’s political health when it comes to the November midterm election.

Although Democratic strategists have long insisted that the Blue Dog lawmaker will have little trouble winning an eighth term this fall, the National Republican Congressional Committee included his 2nd district as one of 41 districts it will target in its first major ad buy of the general election.

The move was made public Tuesday, just weeks after the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee reserved nearly half a million dollars in airtime during the final two weeks of the campaign in the Tallahassee- and Panama City-based district.

Perhaps the move by the NRCC was a way to ensure that the DCCC keeps its money tied down in the 2nd district until late in the cycle, but it seems more likely that the conservative district has simply become another race that has come online late in a cycle that has already seen dozens of once-safe Democratic districts move into more competitive categories.

The NRCC has been hyping its chances in the 2nd district for months after releasing a poll in early May that showed Boyd down by double digits to first-time candidate Steve Southerland, a funeral home director who doesn’t have a record for Boyd to run against. Southerland said Tuesday that his own internal polling from June also showed him well ahead of the Congressman.

Southerland is considered the favorite to emerge from a five-way Republican primary Tuesday, but Democratic strategists believe that Boyd’s financial advantage will be too much for Southerland to overcome in the general election.

Pre-primary fundraising reports show that although Southerland has raised more than $400,000 over 10 months of campaigning, he had just $85,000 on hand Aug. 4.

Southerland said Tuesday that he thinks he can raise another $400,000 for the general election, but that would still put him well behind the $762,000 in cash on hand that Boyd reported Aug. 4.

Southerland would get a boost from NRCC spending in the district. The territory is primarily covered by two relatively cheap media markets. The Tallahassee media market covers about 60 percent of the district and costs the committee about $90 a point while the Panama City media market makes up most of the other 40 percent of the district and costs the committee about $50 a point.

By comparison, the Philadelphia media market, which covers several of this year’s battleground districts, will cost the committees nearly $700 per point.

“It’s encouraging to me the NRCC has said it’s an investment we need to make,” Southerland said of the upcoming NRCC ad buy in his district.

Republicans also argue that Boyd’s high-profile primary has helped chop down the financial disparity that Democrats believed would be his firewall this cycle.

Boyd had spent $2.3 million on his re-election as of Aug. 4, with much of that going toward television advertising against fellow Democrat Al Lawson, the state Senate Minority Leader. One of Boyd’s latest ads slams Lawson for being a “job killer” in Tallahassee.

Boyd spent nearly $240,000 on media buys in three weeks from July to early August, about $30,000 more than Lawson has spent on his entire campaign. Lawson had just $11,000 on hand Aug. 4.

Even though Republicans privately acknowledge that Boyd will likely emerge from the primary, party strategists hope the high-profile intraparty feud has forced Boyd to take enough tough votes and caused enough bad blood to damage the Congressman in the general election.

Republicans have already highlighted the fact that Boyd voted for the health care overall this spring after voting against the legislation last year. They also plan to highlight the fact that the fiscally conservative Democrat voted for the controversial cap-and-trade legislation that a majority of his fellow Blue Dogs voted against.

Republicans believe that Boyd will have particular trouble energizing an important part of his party’s base after the primary.

Lawson is black, as is 22 percent of the district’s population, and it remains to be seen whether Boyd will be able to consolidate support in that demographic this fall.

Democratic strategists dismissed that argument.

“I don’t think African-Americans are going to not turn out in the general election just because there’s not a black candidate on the ballot or because a white candidate won a primary over a black candidate,” Florida Democratic consultant David Beattie said Tuesday. “Black voters are looking for a candidate that can win too, they’re not just looking for a black candidate.”

Meanwhile, the Gulf Coast oil spill could continue to be a factor in the 2nd district this fall. In the wake of the disaster, National Republicans worked to tie Boyd to his party leaders as criticism mounted over the federal government’s response efforts.

Months later, the spill hasn’t done anything to help an already fragile economic situation in a district that relies on the tourism industry. A spokesman for the Panama City Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau said Tuesday that tourist development taxes were off by more than 3 percent in June.

Those taxes are directly linked to the number of overnight stays in hotels, condos and vacation homes in the city. And those economic effects could hurt Boyd if they encourage voters to take their economic frustrations out on the party in power this fall.

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