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Pundits Improve Stephanie Murphy's Chances for Another Term, Downgrade Vern Buchanan's

March 8, 2018 - 4:00pm
Stephanie Murphy and Vern Buchanan
Stephanie Murphy and Vern Buchanan

A prominent national pundit gave Democrats better chances in two congressional races in Florida. 

Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball, which is affiliated with the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, changed the odds in 26 congressional races on Thursday, upgrading freshman U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy’s, D-Fla., chances of winning a second term while downgrading the probability that a Florida Republican keeps his seat. 

Murphy’s race moved from “Leans Democratic” to “Likely Democratic.” 

“One major factor in this week’s ratings is our belief that while Republicans may pick off a few seats held by Democrats this cycle, the reelection rate for Democratic incumbents in the fall is likely to be extremely high, if not unblemished,” insisted Kyle Kondik, the managing editor of Sabato's Crystal Ball. “One would not expect the Republicans to make much hay against Democratic incumbents in what should be a Democratic-leaning environment in the fall.”

Kondik added that Murphy and other congressional Democrats are facing better odds in November due to the president’s party usually losing seats in off year elections. 

“If a Democrat was in the White House, many or all of these members would be Republican targets,” Kondik wrote. “Republicans still hope to push many of them this fall, but we’re just skeptical of their ability to do so given history and the overall environment.”

State Rep. Mike Miller and businessman Scott Sturgill, who served on the Seminole County Soil and Water Commission, are running for the Republican nomination to challenge Murphy who edged longtime U.S. Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., in an upset in 2016. 

That wasn’t the only race that Sabato’s Crystal Ball reappraised as U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan’s, R-Fla., chances for reelection moved down from “Safe Republican” to “Likely Republican” on Thursday. Despite that, Kondik called Buchanan and three Republican incumbents in Michigan as “deep sleeper Democratic targets.”

Buchanan’s son James lost in a special election for a open Sarasota County state House seat that leans Republican and he is facing a serious Democratic challenger. At the end of December, attorney David Shapiro had already raised more than $250,000 for his campaign for the Democratic nomination. However, Buchanan has fought off the Democrats’ efforts to defeat him,  most recently in 2012 when former state Rep. Keith Fitzgerald came up short, losing by 7 percent. Buchanan routed Democrats in more recent election cycles, winning by almost 20 percent in 2016 and by 23 percent in 2014.

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