Herald alum and current Political Cortadito blogger Elaine de Valle has come up with the nickname of the year: "David 'Nine Lives' Rivera" -- an homage, of sorts, to the Republican Congressman for his uncanny ability to avoid a potential 52-count indictment and always seemingly land on his feet.
But with a federal investigation hanging over Rivera's head, it's hard to see how he'll stay out of trouble and stay in Congress. There's a compelling case to be made that Rivera's going to have tax problems over a secret $500k dog-track contract and his apparent personal use of political campaign funds. But whether he gets criminally charged is a big question mark, and it probably won't happen until after the campaign if it happens at all (the feds have a de facto six-month-before-election indictment ban in cases like this).
Still, if Rivera avoids indictment, the campaign will toll on him. The candidate most likely to win the Democratic primary and give Rivera a run, Joe Garcia, is poised to turn a sharply edited YouTube web ad into a hard-hitting TV commercial that uses the voice of Rivera pal and exile community icon, Sen. Marco Rubio, who has said in repeated interviews that Rivera will need to answer questions about his finances. That's going to hurt Rivera.
The newly redrawn congressional district now includes all of the 50,000 voters of liberal-leaning Monroe County, where Rivera's hardline stances on Cuba could be more of a minus than a plus. The Keys business community has dreamed for years of opening up trade with Cuba, just 90 miles south of Key West.
But Garcia's support of more to Cuba is anathema to many exiles in Miami-Dade, where most of D-26 is based. Garcia was destroyed at the polls by Rivera in 2010, so the top Democratic challenger is only so popular in Miami-Dade, where he has lost three times in various races. Also, Garcia still has to win the Democratic primary, where his best-funded challenger, Gloria Romero-Roses, is sending out mailers calling him an opportunist and a repeat loser. Garcia's hitting back, accusing her of "lying."
Whichever Democrat emerges, though, will (or should) have the backing of Washington Democrats who smell a chance for a victory (although they already fouled up the race once). But Rivera, meanwhile, isn't endearing himself to national Republicans. He took on Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney over immigration, and that's a no no. And his fundraising is tiny for an incumbent.
Put it all together -- D.C. help for the Democrat, no national support for Rivera, a criminal probe, lackluster fundraising and a new district -- and Rivera might be on his ninth life this campaign, at the end of which, if he survives, he could look as messed up as Bill the Cat.