- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Rep. Alan Grayson is hailed by liberals as an uncompromising breath of fresh air and reviled by conservatives as a crass ideological bully.

Former Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean says the “spirit of Harry Truman has been reincarnated” in the feisty Florida freshman Democrat. Conservative talk-radio icon Rush Limbaugh, conversely, has called him “an absolute lunatic.”

But while Mr. Grayson’s irreverent independence helped push him to victory two years ago in his moderately conservative Orlando-area district, his politics, policies and demeanor - which have softened very little in two years on Capitol Hill - may be his downfall heading into next month.

“It’s over - Alan Grayson is the surest loser in the House right now,” said David Wasserman, who covers House races for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.

Grayson has rubbed the voters of his district the wrong way. He misread his win in 2008 as an affirmation of his candidacy and his principles.”

Mr. Grayson is one of dozens of incumbent House Democrats who are considered vulnerable in the Nov. 2 midterm elections. Many political analysts say that Republicans are well within reach of picking up the 39 seats they need to regain control of the chamber after four years of Democratic control.

RealClearPolitics.com, a website that aggregates data from various polls, shows Republicans hold a 213-179 lead over Democrats in House races with a clear front-runner, with 43 races considered tossups. An analysis released Tuesday by Politico found that 99 of the 276 Democrat-held House seats are now in play.

While not all political analysts agree that the outspoken - and at times controversial - Mr. Grayson will lose, few deny he is in serious trouble against Republican Daniel Webster, a former state senator.

“I think he certainly could pull off a victory and stay in office, but as of now I would think that Webster would be considered a slight favorite, based on everything that’s happened in the last month or so,” said University of Central Florida political scientist Aubrey Jewett.

Few independent polls have been conducted on the race, making handicapping tricky. A survey taken in late September showed Mr. Grayson trailing his challenger by 7 percentage points - 43 percent to 36 percent. The poll, conducted by Voter Survey Service on behalf of Sunshine State News, also showed that 51 percent of district voters held an unfavorable view of the Democratic congressman.

Mr. Grayson has hammered his challenger on social issues such as abortion, while Mr. Webster has framed his campaign around fiscal issues, promising to rein in government spending. Mr. Webster, who spent almost three decades in the state Legislature, generally also has shied away from harsh attacks on his opponent.

“I think Webster has played this race smart by essentially standing back from Grayson and not allowing Grayson’s ads to drag him into a partisan food fight,” Mr. Wasserman said.

While Mr. Webster’s conservative views have ingratiated himself with supporters of the “tea party” movement, some of his positions, like his opposition to abortion even in the case of rape and incest - though a campaign spokeswoman says “he would not force that personal position on anyone” - have given ammunition to Mr. Grayson’s well-funded attack machine.

Mr. Grayson, known for a string of provocative attacks on his political opponents on the House floor and on cable television, gained renewed national attention with a recent television advertisement that compared Mr. Webster to Afghanistan’s Taliban for his stands on women’s rights issues - a move many say was a political mistake.

The spot, which took words from a Webster speech out of context, caused a backlash for Mr. Grayson while providing a financial boost for Mr. Webster, as conservatives across the country came to his defense.

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