Dems rally behind Wasserman Schultz

Dems rally behind Wasserman Schultz
© Greg Nash

PHILADELPHIA — House Democrats are rushing to the side of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) in the wake of an email scandal that's disrupted the Democratic National Convention and exacerbated divisions between factions of the party.

The episode forced Wasserman Schultz to resign as head of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), effective Friday. But Democratic leaders say the six-term Floridian, long considered a rising star in the party, will weather the storm and continue her climb up the leadership ladder. 

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“She'll rebound from it,” Rep. Jim Clyburn (S.C.), the third-ranking House Democrat, told The Hill Thursday. “I'm going to do everything I can to help her rebound from it.”

Rep. Joe Crowley (N.Y.), vice chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, also offered his full support and confidence in her future.

“Debbie has so many friends who care about her, and she's gonna be just fine,” he said. “Debbie is a big person and she knows that this election is more important than any one of us — it's about helping elect Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonPoll: More Republican voters think party is more united than Democratic voters Whoopi Goldberg presses Sanders: 'Why are you still in the race?' Poll: Biden holds slight edge on Trump in Wisconsin MORE.”

Wasserman Schultz will face an early test in the Aug. 30 Florida primary, where she's facing a tough challenge from Tim Canova, a liberal law professor who's continuously attacked her from the left — and built a considerable war chest doing it.

Canova has modeled his campaign message on the economic populism that fueled the wave of support for Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersBiden campaign: Trump and former vice president will have phone call about coronavirus Judge slams Wisconsin governor, lawmakers for not delaying election amid coronavirus outbreak The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden offers to talk coronavirus response with Trump MORE (I-Vt.), Clinton's rival in the Democratic presidential primary. And the recently leaked DNC emails — which affirmed Sanders's long-held charges that the party had sided with Clinton in an effort to defeat him — have only inflamed the liberal criticisms against her. Many say she's simply unfit to remain in Congress, let alone rise in the leadership ranks.

“I think this disqualifies her,” John MacDonald, a 37-year-old Sanders supporter from Providence, R.I., said Thursday while roaming through Philadelphia's historic Reading Terminal Market on the convention's final day.

“In the charter of the DNC it says the DNC shall remain neutral in primary contests, and she was not, clearly, based on her own words in the emails,” MacDonald added. “So I think, honestly, Tim Canova should knock her out and she should be removed.”

Released by Wikileaks last Friday, the internal DNC emails rocked the Democratic convention just as party leaders were hoping to send a message of unity following the GOP's combative convention in Cleveland last week. Wasserman Schultz was among Clinton's fiercest supporters and a campaign co-chair in 2008, and Sanders accused the DNC chief of rigging the primary contest in Clinton's favor. The emails appeared to support those charges.

The immediate fallout was dramatic: Wasserman Schultz was forced to resign as DNC chief, and she disappeared from public view this week during an event she had orchestrated — and where she was expected to play a starring role. The long-term effects, however, remain to be seen.

Marking good news for Canova, the head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) said this week that the party likely won't be spending any money to help her in the race.

“It's a Democratic district, and typically our resources go — when you talk about financial resources and TV buys — those go to the most competitive races in America,” said DCCC Chairman Ben Ray Luján (N.M.). “That's the priority that we have as a committee.”

Still, Wassmerman Schultz maintains a fundraising advantage; she has national name-recognition; and in Philadelphia, she's getting no lack of support from her fellow Democrats. 

“I'd never underestimate Debbie Wasserman Schultz. She's a force of nature,” Rep. André Carson (D-Ind.) said Thursday. “Things happen in our careers, because we're human beings, but she is not to be underestimated. She still has a very bright future,” he added.

“This was a short block in the road, but I think she'll be back stronger than ever.”