Mario Diaz-Balart’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week

diaz balart

Miami U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart has got to be counting the seconds until the month of July comes to a merciful end.

In the last week, the longtime, Republican congressman, from the once, most venerable dynasty of Cuban political power, has been smacked by a too-close-for-comfort poll, a national gun safety organization, the always feisty Miami New Times, the Dean of the South Florida political press corp, and two of the most prominent, voices from the Parkland tragedies. Geez. 

As reported recently, Diaz-Balart has been running scared in his re-election campaign for the first time in a decade – but the past 7 days have been especially brutal for the lone member of the Diaz-Balart dynasty still holding elected office. 

Diaz-Balart probably began last Monday feeling OK, if not a little bullish, about his prospects for re-election to the Republican-leaning (though Democratic- and NPA-trending 25th Congressional District). Sure, he had barely outraised his newcomer opponent, former judge Mary Barzee Flores, but he held a modest cash-on-hand advantage at the close of the quarter, and he was going to use that cash to start an earlier than usual TV campaign that – in the rich tradition of Miami politics – was grossly negative, designed to rip Flores apart before she gets out of the gate. 

Then on Monday morning, the Giffords PAC, a gun violence prevention organization led by former Congresswoman and gunshot survivor, Gabby Giffords, released a poll of the District 25. MDB started ahead – as you’d expect – but after a handful of messages relating to his history of opposing even the most widely supported, incremental, gun safety reforms, and his consistent, “A” rating (and accompanying PAC donations) from the NRA, Mario, who has held elected office for three decades, went from +8 to -3 in the horserace against his virtually unknown opponent. 

The Diaz-Balart camp pushed back on the poll’s methodology, calling it a “push poll” to POLITICO Florida. Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald tweeted that the PPP survey “shows a close race”, while qualifying that, “notably, it didn’t poll in Spanish.” 

The latter argument is more salient than the former, from the Diaz-Balart campaign. But it’s also tough to take either too seriously when Diaz-Balart himself is taking a clear defensive posture with his early, foray into television. 

This campaign knows it has a race on its hands – and they’re not happy about it. 

The Flores campaign immediately seized on the results, tweeting at Diaz-Balart and barraging inboxes with fundraising appeals that – smartly – were less focused on the close polling than what that polling revealed about Mario’s potential vulnerabilities on the issue of guns. 

By Wednesday, the Giffords campaign had issued an official endorsement of Flores, adding her to their “Vote them out” program of targeted races against NRA-backed incumbents. “[The gun] issue really has the potential to influence voters. And the race is close,” Giffords’ political director, Isabelle James, told POLITICO regarding their Flores endorsement. 

And then came Thursday, July 26th…

Posted at 8:30 that morning, the Miami New Times’ Jerry Ianelli had a story that revealed Diaz-Balart had not just, as previously reported elsewhere, taken more direct contributions from the NRA PAC than any other member of Congress from Florida but had, in fact, been the recipient of $1000 in NRA funds AFTER the February 14th murders in Parkland, FL that occurred just an hour’s drive south from Mario’s Miami home. 

And by the time the 6 o’clock news rolled around that same afternoon, it got worse for Mario. 

Michael Putney, the silver-maned, central casting, anchor of the Miami-Ft. Lauderdale market’s ABC affiliate was out with a devastating “Truth Test” of the attack ad Diaz-Balart began running against Flores a week prior. In two minute-long segment, a graphic bearing the screen-filling, bold, capitalized word “FALSE”, along with an accompanying, loud buzzer noise, appears twice, and Putney says that the ad “presents no proof” and its claims “simply aren’t true.” Ouch. 

Things didn’t get better for Diaz-Balart going into the weekend. 

Throughout the day Friday, Diaz-Balart was assailed on Twitter by two of the most powerful gun reform advocates to emerge from the Parkland murders, Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jamie was murdered at Stoneman Douglas High School, and David Hogg, who survived the shooting and has been one of the most out front leaders of the March for Our Lives movement. 

Guttenberg, posting a graphic containing the photos and names of those who lost their lives on February 14th, including his own daughter, tweeted at Mario, “Was this worth $1000 to you. YOU SHOULD BE FIRED FOR THIS DECISION IN THIS ELECTION.” 

Hogg called him out over both taking the NRA cash and voting against a proposed CDC study on gun violence, posting the numbers to Diaz-Balart’s various offices and urging followers to call him. 

Based on the 6,400 retweets on one of Hogg’s tweets and 12,00 on the other, I’ll bet that whatever intern’s job it is to clear out the voicemail after the weekend had their hands full this morning. 

And that, folks, was Mario Diaz-Balart’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad last full week of July. 

The NRA loves to say that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” If Diaz-Balart gets sent packing this fall, my guess is that it’s guns that kill him on Election Day. 

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.


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