PHILADELPHIA – Rep. Debbie Wasserman Shultz had been poised to easily win a seventh House term in November – until she crossed paths with Bernie Sanders, resulting in a cascade of criticism and embarrassments that now includes an email expose that could upend her reelection bid.
Even after Wasserman Shultz announced her abrupt resignation on the eve of the Democratic convention kick-off, the Florida congresswoman faces a mounting political headache back home.
Her next hurdle will be Democratic primary challenger Tim Canova, who has been playing up the fallout at the DNC after leaked emails revealed an apparent anti-Bernie Sanders bias inside the soon-to-be-ex chairwoman’s shop.
DWS must be defeated in this election and removed from Congress. It’s time to end her political career for good: https://t.co/AaEFqMwENH— Tim Canova (@Tim_Canova) July 25, 2016
The Washington Post reports that the congresswoman is now planning to return to Florida, from the Philadelphia convention, amid concerns over her reelection bid.
That she even has to think about her House race is a turnaround for the congresswoman who was considered among the most powerful Democrats in Washington, in large part for her post at the DNC and unwavering support for President Obama, who appointed her.
However, accusations by Sanders and fellow Democratic primary challenger Martin O’Malley that she and others in the DNC were partial to front-runner Hillary Clinton raised voter suspicions – which were bolstered in the leak of embarrassing internal emails that forced her resignation on Sunday.
The backlash among Democrats and others was almost immediate, with protesters around the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia condemning her actions, including Code Pink demonstrators wearing signs that reading “Resign Debbie.”
On Monday morning, Wasserman Schultz was booed during her speech before the Florida Democratic delegation in the city.
The respected, non-partisan Cook Political Report still shows Wasserman Schultz as a “solid” pick to win reelection. But her Democratic primary and potential GOP challengers are making political hay of the roughly 20,000 hacked emails released by WikiLeaks, including one in which she suggested Sanders’ vow to take away her DNC post was “silly.”
“The emails just point out what so many of us believed, that the process was rigged for Hillary Clinton,” said Joe Kaufman, one of two Republican primary candidates in Wasserman Schultz’s 23rd Congressional District, west of Fort Lauderdale, in southern Florida.
“It looks a little like Debbie is getting a payback for her helping get Hillary Clinton elected. … My campaign believes that people who wanted to vote for her just shouldn’t vote at all because a vote for her is a vote for the rigged process.”
Beyond her DNC role, Wasserman Schultz is also considered a prolific fundraiser and deeply in touch with district voters, include many who like her are Jewish.
However, Kaufman told FoxNews.com her support at home had shown signs of cracking long before she crossed Sanders, who has endorsed her primary challenger Canova and purportedly vowed to campaign against her.
He said her support for the Obama administration’s Iran nuclear deal has upset some Jewish voters.
“There not happy at all in the synagogues,” Kaufman said.
Martin Feigenbaum, the other GOP primary candidate, on Monday said, “I think for the first time she has a chance to lose this election, even though it’s in one of the bluest districts in the country. ... This is one of the most unusual election years in history, and the state’s 23rd district could go Republican.”
Democratic strategist Douglas Smith suggested Monday that party leaders are correctly trying to keep the email story from continuing for days and months, which would further damage Wasserman Schultz.
However, Smith thinks Wasserman Schultz’s political capital will help her prevail.
“I think she’ll win,” he said. “She’s got the heavy support of voters, families."
In her written statement announcing her DNC resignation, the congresswoman said, "My first priority has always been serving the people of the 23rd district of Florida and I look forward to continuing to do that as their member of Congress for years to come."