Now that the results are confirmed in a special congressional election which took place Tuesday in Florida, the GOP is off to a good start.
Republican David Jolly defeated Democrat Alex Sink on Tuesday in a Tampa-area House district where President Barack Obama's health care overhaul got its first test ahead of November's midterm elections and Democrats and Republicans spent millions of dollars auditioning national strategies for the rest of the year.On the surface, it would appear recent history is validated in that if a Democrat not named Obama is running in a toss up congressional district (FL-13 is an R+1 district), the Republican candidate emerges victorious. However, the left was all in for this election given that Sink raised nearly $1 million more than Jolly, who was considered by many as a flawed candidate. And while the spin from leftists is that a Republican should win this district given the fact a GOP Congressman represented the area for 42 years, multiple factors showed that this House seat was ripe for a Dem pickup.
With almost 100 percent of the vote counted, Jolly had 48.5 percent of the vote to Sink's 46.7 percent. Libertarian Lucas Overby had 4.8 percent. The election was to replace 42-year Republican Rep. CW Bill Young, who died in October of cancer.
The implications of the dueling messages for the midterm elections inspired both parties to call in star advocates like President Bill Clinton and former vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, in addition to blanketing the district with ads, calls and mailings. More than $11 million has been spent on the race, according to the Sunlight Foundation, a nonprofit group that tracks government information.
Jolly prevailed despite major demographic changes over Young's four-decade tenure that opened a door for a Democratic victory. This is the second special election in 2014 where Democrats have been unable to assert a demographic advantage among actual voters in a nonpresidential election year. President Obama carried the 13th District in 2008 and 2012, and Sink also won the district during her run for governor in 2010. But translating demography into votes is tricky business, as California Democrats noticed during San Diego's mayoral race earlier this year, which the Republican candidate won.Lest you think I'm over hyping this result, I point you to a piece Stuart Rothenberg of Roll Call wrote two months ago entitled "The Race Democrats Can’t Afford to Lose."
Jolly, who was a lobbyist and before that an aide to Young, overcame a significant financial disadvantage to defeat Sink, who was well-known from her previous statewide runs. Sink outspent Jolly about 4-to-1 on the airwaves, according to NBC News, but Republican outside groups including the National Republican Congressional Committee, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, American Action Network, and American Crossroads helped close the financial gap.
It’s rare in politics that anything other than a presidential contest is viewed as a “must win” — but the special election in Florida’s 13th District falls into that category for Democrats.
A loss in the competitive March 11 contest would almost certainly be regarded by dispassionate observers as a sign that President Barack Obama could constitute an albatross around the neck of his party’s nominees in November. And that could make it more difficult for Democratic candidates, campaign committees and interest groups to raise money and energize the grass roots.
Sink embracing the Affordable Care Act (like she did in a TV ad last month) likely validates the assertion that Obama and his signature healthcare law are hindrances.
But perhaps the most encouraging sign is the Jolly campaign used RNC data and analytics infrastructure to close the gap and eventually overtake Sink. Remember, it was in 2012 when Obama and his Dem cohorts used such methodology to ascertain that "The Life of Julia" and the GOP "War on Women" resonated with the electorate despite conservatives ridiculing such mantras. I think we all remember how the 2012 election cycle wasn't exactly the Republicans' finest moment.
It seems to me that if there are other toss up congressional races this year, it appears Republicans would be well served to use FL-13 as a case study in how to win. Winning is still the objective, right?