CLEARWATER, Fla.— Republicans say they’re fighting for every seat in the House. Every seat except Florida Rep. David Jolly’s, that is.
The first-term GOP incumbent is running a lone-wolf reelection campaign, fighting for his political life as Democrats aim to unseat him with a big name in Florida politics, former Gov. Charlie Crist. But Republican leaders have left him for dead, after a falling-out over money in politics, even though party strategists say they’re doing everything they can to protect the GOP’s House majority.
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“When we win this, we will have done it our own way, with nobody owning us,” Jolly said in an interview, looking relaxed as he sat in the back booth of a local crab shack in his district on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico.
With just about 80 days left before the election, GOP leaders are bracing for a down-ballot disaster as Donald Trump falls further behind Hillary Clinton in the polls. But when it comes to Jolly, top Republicans are refusing to throw a lifeline to the embattled incumbent.
The lawmaker was already on shaky ground with leadership, but he became a political pariah after he participated in a “60 Minutes” segment on fundraising tactics that included secret footage from inside the National Republican Congressional Committee — something he denies being involved in — and prominently featured Jolly blasting his colleagues and GOP leaders for their preoccupation with raising political money.
Jolly, touting the “Stop Act” — his bill to ban lawmakers from direct fundraising —said new members were expected to raise $18,000 a day by cold calling potential donors, prompting the NRCC to label him a liar.