Florida's 2nd Congressional District pits two families against each other. (Abby Livingston/CQ Roll Call)
ST. GEORGE ISLAND, Fla. | Former Florida First Lady Adele Graham does not entertain the word “if” in polite conversation, when discussing the political future of her daughter, Gwen. It’s only “when.”
The wife of Florida’s former governor and senator, Bob Graham, treats doubt that Gwen Graham will oust Republican Rep. Steve Southerland II with a gentle arm pat and tone of voice that is usually reserved for obscenity or wearing white pants after Labor Day.
The Graham family has summoned the force of its political operation behind the eldest daughter to ensure that its 50-year Florida political win streak does not end in November. But while the Grahams spent three decades dominating statewide politics, the Southerland family also has deep ties in the district.
“When Grahams run, Grahams win,” the candidate tells her supporters at a Saturday afternoon meet-and-greet on this north Florida coast barrier island.
But this is a tough district and environment for any Democrat, even a political scion. President Barack Obama’s plummeting approval ratings make it that much harder this year for House Democratic candidates to gain traction.
Southerland and Mitt Romney each carried Florida’s 2nd District by six points in 2012. And geographically, this north Florida seat has more in common with Alabama than Miami.
To combat that reality, a Southern Democrat must create an outsized personal brand that will help voters forget any association with the president.