If Democrats are to have any chance of flipping the U.S. House in 2018, they’re going to have to pick up seats in Florida. But, with a year until the primaries, their chances to make major gains in the Sunshine State are, at best, slim.
To be sure, Democrats have some opportunities in South Florida. With U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., retiring from Congress where she has served since 1989, Democrats have a good chance of picking up that swing seat. But that’s no sure thing and there are major candidates in both the Democratic and Republican ranks.
Democrats also have high hopes of knocking off U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., next year. But, even while Democrats have a slight advantage in that South Florida district, Curbelo has gotten national attention for breaking with President Donald Trump and, so far, isn’t facing a challenge from the right. A crowd of Democrats is starting to line up against Curbelo with Debbie Mucarsel-Powell getting some attention though she did not exactly shine when she took on state Sen. Antire Flores last year. Flores won 54 percent to 46 percent.
Outside of those two districts, Democrats don’t have that many obvious opportunities to flip House seats in Florida come 2018. Granted candidates can come out of nowhere--witness Stephanie Murphy’s upset win over longtime U.S. Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., last year--but, so far, Democrats don’t have that many chances to win seats in the Sunshine State. State Attorney Dave Aronberg might give freshman U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fla., a tough fight if he runs but none of the other Democrats looking at running or currently in the race look like major threats at this time. Democrats might make some gains in Northeast Florida is U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., runs for statewide office. Nancy Soderberg has some potential and an impressive background but she didn’t shine when she ran for the state Senate and it’s no sure thing that DeSantis sets his sites on higher office. Even though there is already a host of Democrats running against him, U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla., should be in good shape come 2018. Both Alan and Dena Grayson have filed to run for Congress but they will have uphill climbs if they actually decide to take on Republican U.S. Reps. Dan Webster and Bill Posey.
In the meantime, Democrats have seats of their own to defend. After beating Mica last time out, Murphy is a top target for Republicans. Businessman Mark Busch, state Rep. Mike Miller and businessman Scott Sturgill have already lined up to challenge Murphy and Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg and state Sen. David Simmons could also enter the Republican primary. U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-Fla., could face a rematch with former U.S. Rep. David Jolly, R-Fla., who has remained active on the national stage since being defeated last year.
There’s still 14 months until the election and a great deal can happen. The party that controls the White House usually struggles in off-year elections which can help Democrats at the national level. But, so far in the early stages of the 2018 campaign, Democrats will have to rely on gains in California, Minnesota, Ohio, New York and Pennsylvania and other states since they won’t get many chances to pick up seats in Florida.