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Rep. Stephanie Murphy says she's 'seriously considering' 2022 challenge to Rubio

Rep. Stephanie MurphyStephanie MurphyTrump hands Rubio coveted reelection endorsement in Florida Blue Dogs push House leadership to allow more member input Don't cut or condition US military aid to Israel MORE (D-Fla.) announced Wednesday she’s launching a listening tour across Florida as she “seriously” considers a Senate bid against Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioThe Memo: Biden's five biggest foreign policy challenges Hillicon Valley: Amazon wins union election — says 'our employees made the choice' Overnight Defense: Biden proposes 3B defense budget | Criticism comes in from left and right | Pentagon moves toward new screening for extremists MORE (R) next year. 

Murphy’s campaign announced that the listening tour, dubbed “Cast Forward,” will involve “a series of virtual conversations with Florida Democrats and key stakeholders, including listening events and one-on-one discussions throughout the state to gather input and ideas on how to build for the future.” 

The initial conversations will focus on combating the coronavirus pandemic, addressing misinformation, curbing climate change, pushing for social justice reforms and “developing a new generation of Floridians.”

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The announcement comes as Murphy says she is considering challenging Rubio in 2022 in what is likely to be one of the highest-profile Senate races of the midterm cycle. Should she not run next year, she said she may also make a bid for Sen. Rick Scott’s (R-Fla.) seat in 2024. 

“I’ve been so moved over the last few months by the calls from constituents and Democrats throughout the state asking me to run for the U.S. Senate. And I’m seriously considering it, either in 2022 or 2024,” Murphy told The Hill in a statement.

“But my Cast Forward project isn’t about a Senate run. A vibrant Democratic Party is not only good for Democratic candidates, it’s also good for all the hardworking families Republicans have abandoned. Even if I don’t run, I want to ensure we have a nominee and a party infrastructure that can help Democrats win statewide and put Florida families first.” 

The listening tour was rolled out along with an over-four-minute-long biographical video touting her experience fleeing communist Vietnam as a child and then working for the Defense Department after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

“I still consider myself to be a patriot and not a politician. And I’m a patriot because I love this country,” she said in the video. “My parents, facing a future where their children would not have opportunity or freedom or democracy, decided that we might die in search of light, that that was better than to live on in darkness.”

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Murphy also used the video as an opportunity to preemptively rebut attacks she will likely face should she challenge Rubio. The Florida Democrat cast her as a “proud capitalist,” an apparent attempt to swat away GOP claims that she is a socialist – attacks that worked particularly well in down-ballot races in Florida and across the country in 2020.

“I am a proud capitalist and a proud Democrat,” she said. “My parents sacrificed an awful lot escaping socialism, and I believe that our governance system and our economic system has made America powerful and the greatest country to live in in the world.”

Unseating Rubio would be a tall order given his popularity across Florida, particularly with Hispanic voters in south Florida, a demographic with which Democrats typically need to overperform to win statewide. Rubio won reelection in 2016 by about 8 points, a landslide victory in a state notorious for its razor-thin margins in statewide races.

But Murphy dismissed concerns that a challenge would be too difficult to win, noting her past electoral victories. Murphy, 42, first won her Orlando-area House seat — one of the most competitive in Florida — in 2016 by knocking off 12-term incumbent GOP Rep. John MicaJohn Luigi MicaRep. Stephanie Murphy says she's 'seriously considering' 2022 challenge to Rubio Media barred from bringing bulletproof vests, gas masks and helmets to inauguration On The Trail: The political losers of 2020 MORE, a feat few considered accomplishable at the time.

“I know what it takes to defeat a powerful Republican incumbent, because I did it. I know what it takes to develop a fundraising and grassroots operation to win in a swing district, because I’ve done it three times,” she said. “So, I have some ideas and experience to offer.”