Old Dogs and New Tricks

by SDM

The Miami Herald published a story on Monday that SDM must have missed. The polling firm McLaughlin & Associates found that Congressman Joe Garcia polls ahead of potential challenger, School Board Member Carlos Curbelo 46% to 34%.

At this point in the cycle, a first-term Congressman like Mr. Garcia would be thrilled if that were the whole story. Unfortunately for Mr. Garcia, the absentee ballot scandal roiling his campaign is having an effect on his numbers:

The poll included a so-called “message testing” lead-up to a question: “Joe Garcia’s top political advisor was forced to resign because he was accused of election fraud during last year’s elections where he submitted fake absentee ballots in an effort to try and steal the election.”

The question might not be accurate. Jeffrey Garcia hasn’t been formally accused, and the scam never resulted in actual fraudulent votes. Joe Garcia won the primary by a margin far bigger than the phony absentee-ballot requests.

But the question has value because it’s a preview of the line of attack that Curbelo and his consultants could use to help their candidate or hurt their opponent.

When asked this question, 54 percent of voters said they were less likely to support Garcia, compared with 40 percent who said they would stick by him. The numbers were even more striking with undecided voters: 64-51 percent.

SDM’s first thought on reading the above was that even Miami’s old dog voters may be able to learn the new trick of rejecting pols who rely on dirty tricks to win.

Second, in the world of Miami politics, these poll results are chum in the water. All a challenger must do is advertise the hell out of the fact that Mr. Garcia can’t seem to manage his campaign and his numbers drop by half overnight!

Mr. Garcia’s other problem is one of timing. The absentee ballot mess has the potential for criminal sanctions, so SDM doubts the Congressional Staffers involved will remain silent in the face of an indictment, especially if singing will exonerate them.

These kinds of investigations take time, though, so this scandal may leak smelly political ooze on Mr. Garcia for months on end. When one is trying to raise money and hold onto a seat where John McCain battled Barack Obama to a dead heat. After redistricting, the seat still favors Republicans in registration by 54%-46%.

SDM Wonders: How long will local Hispanic Democrats wait until they jump in and challenge the weakened Garcia in a primary?

SDM Says: Summers in Miami are hot, but for Congressman Joe Garcia, el verano podría ser horrible!

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