A GOP super-PAC is using Democrat Joe Garcia's secretly recorded sexist remark about Hillary Clinton last Sunday as a springboard to remind voters of Garcia's scandal-plagued record. And the campaign is just getting started. It has all kind of tricks up its sleeve for the former congressman who narrowly beat Annette Taddeo in the Democratric primary.
Garcia's opponent in November, Hispanic Republican Carlos Curbelo -- his CD 26 seat shaken apart after redistricting -- could be the most vulnerable congressman in the nation.
But here comes the feisty GOP PAC Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF) to Carbelo's rescue.
CLF is dedicated to protecting Republican lawmakers' seats, they're very good at it, and they're about to spend $1.7 million on an attack ad campaign on Curbelo's behalf.
In 2014 CLF spent more than $11.4 million helping Republicans in vulnerable districts retain or capture their seats.
Curbelo is a moderate, a Cuban-American opposed to GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump. In essence, he walks a tightrope among Republicans, even in South Florida. The CLF is doing what they do best, but they've climbed out on a limb to do it.
Cuban-American Democrat Garcia is the same opponent Curbelo unseated in 2014.
And, while $1.7 million is a lot of money to spend just in South Florida, CLF’s campaign will focus exclusively on attacking Garcia.
Here are the controversial comments Garcia made last Sunday about Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton:
"Lyndon Johnson wasn't a particularly charming man, wasn't a particularly nice man: He would ask you nice, and then when you didn't do it, he made you do it. And Hillary is under no illusions that you want to have sex with her, or that she's going to seduce you, or outthink you."
In an interview with The Hill newspaper, CLF spokeswoman Ruth Guerra said this wasn't the first time Garcia's "behavior and poor judgement has created national headlines."
"Using this week’s controversy as a springboard, Congressional Leadership Fund, the super PAC endorsed by House Republican leadership, is launching a social media campaign with a new video to remind FL-26 voters of Garcia’s scandal-plagued history," Guerra said.
To drive home its message, the campaign will use the hashtag #ShadyJoeGarcia and a video of Annette Taddeo to drive home its message.
In 2013, Garcia's former chief of staff pleaded guilty to involvement in a fraudulent absentee voter ballot scheme conducted during Garcia's 2012 election. Garcia claimed to have no knowledge of the scheme and was never formally implicated.
In the video, Taddeo says "there was proof that he knew all along what was going on," although it is unclear whether she is referring directly to Garcia.
Curbelo distancing himself from Trump is understandable. Democrats have targeted him as they seek to use Trump's unpopularity with Latinos to mount attacks on GOP incumbents in heavily Hispanic districts.
Curbelo was one of the first Republicans to voice open opposition to Trump. He works hard to disassociate himself from a nominee Hispanics in his district clearly dislike.
In May, Curbelo told The Hill, "Both presumptive nominees are so unpopular that I think we’ll see an uptick in ticket-splitting."
Though his campaign didn't comment on CLF's social media push, Curbelo spokeswoman Joanna Rodríguez issued a press release critical of García's Clinton comments and his attacks on Curbelo's plan to reform the Cuban refugee system.
"South Florida voters have rejected Garcia and his disgusting language and divisive rhetoric four times, and this latest insult to the people of this district is just another reason I’m confident they will do it again in November," the release said.
Reach Nancy Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith