If you weren’t paying attention, earlier this week a special election was held in District 13 of Florida in the Tampa area to fill the seat of the late Representative Bill Young. The race featured Alex Sink, a former democratic candidate for Florida governor in 2010 and David Jolly, a longtime aide Rep. Young and former lobbyist. The race was tight. In fact, FL-13 was a district carried by the President in 2008 and in 2012, but in 2012 it was won by the President by just a single point.
The election was considered a toss-up, but it was also considered an important place where the Republicans could test the waters of just how unpopular Obamacare is with the American people and if that message translates into votes. This meant that wave after wave of advertising was being unleashed in that area. Eleven million dollars were spent on advertising, Sink out raised Jolly, or at least out spent Jolly by a three to one margin. Outside agencies poured money in to close that gap in sympathetic advertising.
Larry J. Sabato, a professor of politics at the University of Virginia, runs Larry J. Sabato’s Crystal Ball, a newsletter/website that predicts the winners of federal elections. Whatever model he developed in 2002 when he started is wicked accurate, in the high 90’s kind of accurate, which is scary. But even Sabato had this election as leans Democratic and as late as election day had called the close election in a toss-up area for Sink based on their model.
Well Sink lost. Jolly beat Sink by less than two points, and that was with a Libertarian candidate picking up nearly five percent of the vote. That means in November, when Jolly runs for re-election, again this year, he will have the massive advantage of being the incumbent.
But what does that mean in November. Is Congress going to go hard red? Spin is spin. Here’s the reality. This was a race that most political observers expected Sink to win. Jolly was a lobbyist up to this point which isn’t the best profession in this political environment. He had to beat back a sitting state representative in a primary that drained his resources to the point where Sink was able to drastically outspend him. And, he spent the entirety of the race bashing Obamacare, the issue that Republicans insist will be their number one issue come election season.
This could be bad news for the Democrats, or it could be a fluke. But to watch Chris Matthews, you’d have thought the end of the world was near. He bloviated for a while about the gloom and doom and essentially conceded not only the House, where the Republicans hold an advantage already, but also in the Senate where the Democrats hold a 6 seat advantage. This is will make for an interesting election cycle. This election should be enough to embolden Republicans and unnerve Democrats for this cycle. I say watch for the Republicans to hold onto the house easily and make up significant ground in the Senate.