The Campaign Spot

A Tough Special Election in Florida Awaits GOP in 2014

The first federal election of 2014 comes on March 11, when Florida’s 13th congressional district holds a special election to fill the seat of the late Bill Young, who died in October at the age of 82.

The GOP primary is January 14, with Mark Bircher, David W. Jolly, and state representative Kathleen M. Peters on the ballot.

Florida primaries are closed, meaning only registered Republicans will vote in the primary. There will be no Democratic primary because only one Democrat qualified for the ballot, former state chief financial officer Alex Sink.

The Republican candidate will be taking on a rival with a position on Obamacare that is a spectacular piece of fluff:

The rollout of the website and problems that have arisen with the implementation are unacceptable: The Obama Administration needs to be held accountable to get the website running, and making any necessary changes to fix any problems with the law. If these changes cannot be made in a timely way, then components of the law should be delayed until these issues are addressed.

Does that mean the individual mandate? A further delay in the individual mandate? What does she consider “necessary changes”? What does she consider “problems with the law”? Does she consider higher premiums for existing policyholders a problem with the law?

Sink has a good reason to fudge and blur her opinion on Obamacare. While we don’t have specific polling for the district, the law is pretty darn unpopular in Florida as a whole. In November, Quinnipiac found voters oppose the Affordable Care Act 54–39 percent; 44 percent say the law will make their health care worse, 21 percent say it will make their health care better, and 31 percent foresee no effect. That survey found Obama’s disapproval at 57 percent, approval at 40 percent.

This is an R+1 district that John McCain carried by 5 points in 2008, but Obama carried it by a percentage point in 2012. Sink is considered the favorite in the special election. She was the Democrats’ candidate for governor in 2010, and she won 153,865 votes in Pinellas County to 136,657 for Rick Scott, a 50 percent–to–​45 percent split. But the GOP has a slight edge in voter registration: “Independents make up 28 percent of voters in Pinellas County. Republicans account for 37 percent and Democrats for 35 percent.”

This week the National Republican Congressional Committee spent $22,825 for survey research (polling) in the district, performed by GS strategy group, and $17,000 for media, paid to the firm Targeted Victory.