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, at least when discussing the political future of her daughter Gwen. It’s only “when.”
The wife of ex-Florida 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 usually reserved for obscenity or wearing white after Labor Day.
The Graham family has summoned the force of its political operation behind its eldest daughter to ensure 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 rating 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 6 points in 2012. And geographically, this 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.