U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL).
(photo credit: REUTERS)
PHILADELPHIA – Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s hasty exit from Democratic leadership came under the glaring lights of a national scandal on Sunday, as the party, once again, grappled with a crisis over sloppy email use.
A hack of the Democratic National Committee’s system – and a subsequent leak of more than 20,000 internal emails – revealed an effort within the party to support Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders during their primary fight earlier this year. Several members of Wasserman Schultz’s senior staff were apparently strategizing on Clinton’s behalf, and the personal correspondence of the US representative from Florida’s 23rd congressional district treated Sanders’s candidacy dismissively.
But will Wasserman Schultz’s favoritism for Clinton prove harmful in her home district in Florida, which includes heavily Jewish Miami Beach – and in a tough primary fight to come against a well-financed challenger? The numbers suggest not.
While controversy never helps candidates for office – or so holds conventional wisdom, in the days before the rise of Donald Trump – Wasserman Schultz’s constituents in Miami- Dade and Broward counties voted for Clinton over Sanders in Florida’s Democratic primary by a 3-1 margin.
Wasserman Schultz, 49, a darling of the Jewish community and the first female DNC chair in 15 years, remains popular at home, and will have the support of US President Barack Obama, who endorsed her for reelection in March.
Obama repeated his endorsement of her on Sunday: “No one works harder for her constituents in Congress than Debbie Wasserman Schultz,” he said in a statement about her resignation.
Wasserman Schultz owes thanks for her ascension within the party to Obama, who tapped her as chair in 2011 to replace Tim Kaine, now a US senator from Virginia and Clinton’s choice for vice presidential running mate. And she has taken heat from her constituents on his behalf, particularly over the nuclear deal with Iran reached last summer, which she endorsed literally in tears after months of deliberation.
Sanders had been calling for Wasserman Schultz’s resignation for months, and from his perspective, her departure was long overdue. But the Floridian will keep many friends in the party leadership. Once the dust settles – and if she manages to survive this week’s Philadelphia convention without causing anymore damage – “DWS” is likely to have the resources necessary to mount a formidable campaign at home, and retain an influential voice in Congress.