Rep. Alan GraysonAlan Mark GraysonFlorida Rep. Val Demings officially enters Senate race against Rubio Demings raises Democrats' hopes in uphill fight to defeat Rubio Demings planning to run for Senate instead of Florida governor MORE's questionable attack ads have vaulted his reelection race into the spotlight this week, with Republicans labeling the incumbent's message a sign of desperation.  

Grayson, who is facing a tough challenge from state Sen. Dan Webster (R) this fall, ran an ad over the weekend that labeled his opponent "Taliban Dan." The ad elicited widespread condemnation from Republicans and criticism from nonpartisan observers.  


"Religious fanatics try to take away our freedom in Afghanistan, in Iraq and right here in Central Florida," the ad says before cutting to a black-and-white shot of Webster reciting a Bible passage that reads, "Wives, submit yourself to your own husband." 

"Taliban Dan Webster — hands off our bodies and our laws," the ad concludes.  

The nonpartisan website said Grayson's spot "lowers the bar" by "using edited video to make his rival appear to be saying the opposite of what he really said."  

The ad took Webster's words wildly out of context. The Republican was actually quoting a Bible verse during a speech at a Christian conference in 2009; the full context of the remarks reveal that Webster was preaching the exact opposite of what Grayson's ad suggests.   

"He's disgusting and he's a disgrace," Webster said of Grayson in an interview with a Florida radio station Tuesday. 

In an interview on MSNBC Tuesday, Grayson defended the ad, denying that he twisted Webster's words and saying the focus on whether his spot quoted Webster out of context was a distraction from the actual views of his opponent. 

It's one of the prime reasons Republicans think Grayson could be a goner in 2010. In a marginally Democratic district that Grayson won with just 52 percent of the vote in 2008, the congressman has taken on the role of liberal firebrand on cable news in a way Republicans argue simply doesn't represent his constituents. 

On the floor of the House last year, Grayson infamously said the Republican plan for healthcare boils down to "don't get sick" — and if you do, to "die quickly." 

It's that national image that Grayson is betting will pull him through in November. 

One advantage Grayson still has this fall, even with the lousy national environment for Democrats, is his fundraising ability. The freshman Democrat has raised more than $3.5 million for his reelection bid — the congressman raised $500,000 in August alone.

Grayson also has the ability to spend some of his own money on the contest if he so chooses. In 2008, Grayson spent close to $3 million of his own cash on his race, but given his national profile among Democratic activists, Grayson hasn't had to rely on his own money this year.

Grayson has strong support among liberal activists across the country, who have aided his fundraising efforts. Webster, meanwhile, raised less than $350,000 total by the start of August.     

The race offers one of this cycle's most drastic candidate contrasts. The St. Petersburg Times has called the two candidates "cosmic opposites." While Grayson relies on his national profile, Webster is banking on a focus on the 8th district. 

"I'm not going there to make a name for myself," Webster told the St. Petersburg Times earlier this month. "I'm going there to accomplish something."

Republicans say Webster is a strong challenger who is battle-tested thanks to a competitive Republican primary last month, and as a longtime legislator he enjoys better-than-average name recognition in the district.

Grayson's campaign points to internal numbers it says have the incumbent in the lead. But a Sunshine State News poll out this week gave Webster the edge — 43 percent to 36. 

In the short term, Webster's campaign is using Grayson's latest attack ad to up the national attention on the race and as an opening to attack the incumbent's previous messages. Webster's camp pointed to an earlier Grayson spot that called the Republican a "draft-dodger." 

In reality, Webster received student deferments and was later disqualified for medical reasons. 

The race also features Peg Dunmire, who is running on the Florida TEA Party ballot line and could mean problems for Webster.

Tea Party activists in the state have accused Dunmire of being a fraud and claim that Grayson's camp helped manufacture her candidacy in an attempt to ease his own road to reelection. It's a charge Grayson denies.