Rep. Alan Grayson's reputation as a progressive bomb-thrower is exactly what's made national Democrats fearful that his bid for Senate in Florida could cost them a top pickup opportunity.
But when he launched his bid on Thursday, he showed no signs of changing his tune.
"Frankly, one reason why Democrats are willing to crawl over hot coals naked to vote for me is because I'm willing to tell the truth," he told NBC in an interview.
Grayson believes that enthusiastic base support is what makes him uniquely poised to win. He's said national Democrats' preferred choice in the race, Florida Rep. Patrick Murphy, is merely "nominally and theoretically a Democrat," noting he was once registered as a Republican. And, he argued, Democrats will stay home if Murphy is the party's nominee.
"I have the highest name recognition of any candidate in the Senate race, and I'm winning against all of the Republicans in three polls," he said. "I'm going to win. "I'll tell you those people who are saying anything else are simply blind to the facts."
Murphy, a second-term Democrat with a proven ability to win tough races and raise huge sums, has the backing of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Democrats see him as better poised to appeal to swing voters in the general election in a state that skews older, and one that could see a surge in GOP turnout if one of its hometown heroes -- either former Gov. Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio, who vacated the Senate seat to run for president -- is at the top of the ticket.
They're also fearful that Grayson's penchant for colorful comments -- he once compared the Tea Party to the KKK -- as well as ethics questions over an offshore investment account he's opened could create headaches for the party more broadly.
The DSCC made clear its disdain for Grayson's bid in a statement on the race Thursday that completely ignored his announcement while praising Murphy, which a Grayson adviser suggested lacked "class." But the congressman called the move "worse than that."
"They need a great deal of self-examination at this point," he told NBC. "This is an open seat, we're talking about an open seat. In the last cycle the DSCC lost every single open seat in the entire country except for one."
"In essence the DSCC is committing campaign malpractice every day and they really need to think hard about the decisions that they're making every day," he said.
Grayson's not worried about the lack of establishment backing. He plans to draw on his nationwide base of progressive support -- a fundraising base he says puts him in league with liberal powerhouses like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders -- to raise money for a race he expects to cost $40 million. But he said he's "willing to spend whatever it takes" to win.
With an estimated net worth of at least $27 million, Grayson's personal wealth may help him run a competitive race, but it could also complicate his populist pitch.
He's pledged to make income inequality and other progressive priorities a focus of his bid. And Grayson told NBC he'd like to make eliminating the income tax for the poorest Americans a key priority. But he seemed more reluctant to tackle the tax rate for top income-earners like himself.
"One way that you could try to address [income inequality] is through the tax system, but that doesn't necessarily mean that you tax people who make more money more," he said.
"At the top end, it’s a complicated situation," he added. "I can tell you, in fact, there are repercussions and second order effects that come from modifying the tax rates at the top."