At this point in a midterm election the smart contributor money in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere is trying to figure where to place its bets in November. Both parties are road-testing messages for the fall. That’s why tonight’s stunning special-election victory by Republicans in a Florida House district won twice by Barack Obama has national implications. Democrats are in for a “bumpy ride,” as Bette Davis would put it.
Republicans shouldn’t have won tonight. Their candidate, 41-year-old David Jolly, was easily caricatured as a former congressional staffer and Washington lobbyist. He was vastly outspent by Democrat Alex Sink and her allies, and ran a shambolic campaign that was ridiculed behind the scenes by GOP operatives. Sink was a moderate female who had carried the district when she was running for governor, just over three years ago. As Florida’s chief financial officer, she outshone Jolly in terms of government experience.
But Jolly was for total repeal of Obamacare and Sink was, well, nuanced in expressing her opinion that the law could be “fixed.” Voters weren’t buying that. Turnout was high for a special election and the enthusiasm was clearly with GOP voters. Democrats stayed home in greater numbers.
Political analyst Stu Rothenberg says the GOP victory is likely to prompt Democrats to distance themselves from the Obama administration. Back in January he wrote:
Given all of the advantages that Sink has — the district, her experience and proven electoral success, her money in the bank and her united party — and the problems the GOP nominee will face, shouldn’t the likely Democratic nominee be a clear favorite to win the special election, getting her party one seat closer to the majority in November?
The answer is “yes.”
The Florida special-election victory in such a swing seat will boost Republican morale, flood their campaign coffers with opportunistic cash, and encourage Republicans to believe that their all-out assault on Obamacare is paying political dividends, despite the media carping and skepticism from the sidelines.