Grayson's opponent refuses to debate

The Democratic Congressional Committee has given up on firebrand House Rep. Alan Grayson and has stopped sending him money for his re-election campaign, states a report at National Journal's Hotline On Call.

According to Hotline's Reid Wilson, Grayson is among a growing number of House Democrats who are considered so unlikely to win their races that there is little point in sending them money from the national party.

"Where the DCCC didn't spend money is as indicative as where it did," Reid writes. "With two weeks to go, Democrats are using their checkbooks as acknowledgement that nearly a dozen members are beyond saving."

Grayson, who shot to fame last year when he declared that the GOP's plan for health care reform amounts to hoping you "die quickly," has found himself in an uphill campaign against Republican challenger Dan Webster, with a recent poll showing Grayson trailing the Christian conservative by 16 points in Florida's 8th district, which is generally considered to be moderate.

Last month, even some of Grayson's backers winced when the lawmaker released an ad declaring Webster to be "Taliban Dan."

"Religious fanatics are trying to take away our freedom in Afghanistan, in Iraq and right here in central Florida," the ad stated. "Daniel Webster wants to impose his radical fundamentalism on us. ... Webster tried to deny battered women medical care and the right to divorce their abusers. He wants to force raped women to bear the child. Taliban Dan Webster. Hands off our bodies, and our laws."

The Orlando Sentinel reported on Wednesday that Webster is refusing to debate Grayson.

"I have run a positive campaign without making a single personal attack on Congressman Grayson, and I pledge to continue to do so throughout this campaign," Webster said in a statement. "Being on a stage with him at this point would make keeping that commitment almost impossible. I do not believe that a debate with Alan Grayson will be anything more than gutter theatrics."

"It is an insult to the people of Central Florida that Webster is unwilling to defend his 28-year record as a career politician, or to explain to the voters what he would do if we were to elect him to represent us," Grayson responded in a statement Wednesday.

The Sentinel reports that the disagreement between Grayson and Webster over debates has been going on for months.

In August, the former Republican state legislator's campaign said he would only participate in debates in which he and Grayson would face each other one-on-one. But Grayson refused to debate unless invitations went to every candidate in the 8th District race, including Florida Tea Party candidate Peg Dunmire and independent George Metcalfe.

That led to a standoff. Last week, the Central Florida Urban League held a debate between Grayson, Dunmire, Metcalfe and a write-in candidate — but Webster's chair sat empty.

For his part, Webster has been described by critics as "a member of the hardcore theocratic right." TalkingPointsMemo links Webster to conservative activist David Barton, who has been criticized for addressing white supremacist groups.