March 14, 2014

The election in Florida's 13th District between Republican David Jolly and Democrat Alex Sink was touted by both Democrats and Republicans as an early messaging test for November's mid-terms. Jolly beat Sink by 48.5 percent of the vote to Sink's 46.7 percent. The remaining votes went to Libertarian Lucas Overby who got 4.8 percent.

When the results were announced late Tuesday Night, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) had to do what the average 21st century progressive does when they lose.

They had to find a way to write: They got more votes, but we really won.

The Washington Post reported that Jolly's win was by "3,400 votes out of 183,000 cast." At first, I thought there wasn't a big enough spread for Jolly to claim victory and feared the Democratic machine would find a couple of boxes of ballots in the trunk of a car somewhere - about 3,470 ballots, all of which cast for Sink.

Back to the election, the central issue in the race was Obamacare. The Republican, Jolly, called for repeal. The Democrat, as the Associated Press's Dave Espo wrote, took a "fix-it-don't-nix-it approach" to the issue.

Secondarily, moves to reduce Medicare (and Medicare Advantage) budgets were high on the campaigns' agendas.

Every person on my Twitter feed has already exhausted the puns on Jolly and Sink: "GOP Jolly over Sinking (!) of Dems in FL," so don't bother. Or, "It's a Jolly to Sink Obamacare."

Thanks for playing.

The Democratic writers took pains to point out that in spite of this Congressional seat being held by a Republican since right after Juan Ponce de León bumped into Florida in 1513, Ms. Sink came THIS CLOSE to upsetting Mr. Jolly.

They did not say that Barack Obama won in 2012, even if only by one percentage point.

The Democrats wrote that ultra conservative "Outside Money" (read: Koch Brothers) poured into the district ignoring the fact that even with that "Outside Money" the Democrat outspent the Republican.

In fact of the campaigns themselves (without SuperPACs or National Committee money) the Democrat outspent the Republican by about 3-1.

On the winning side, the job of the communications people at the Republican National Committee (RNC) and the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) is to make this result as broadly applicable to November as possible.

NRCC Chairman Greg Walden was quoted in a press release as saying:

"One of Nancy Pelosi's most prized candidates was ultimately brought down because of her unwavering support for ObamaCare, and that should be a loud warning for other Democrats running coast to coast."

Well, maybe. But Pinellas County is in Florida and in Florida there tend to be a disproportionate percentage of seniors in the population. According to ABC News "about 22 percent of the population in Pinellas County are 65 and older."

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, across the United States that group makes up only 13.3 percent of the total population.

There is no question that both sides were pointing to, and investing heavily in, this race if only for the bragging rights going forward.

According to CNN, DCCC chairman Steve Israel tried to minimize the result saying,

"Special elections are not indicators of the future. They never have been. They never will be."

This was a seat held by the late C.W. "Bill" Young who, according to Wikipedia "was elected to Congress in 1970 from what was then the 8th District and was reelected 20 times," so the calculus doesn't change.

I point that out because this was an Republican seat that will remain a GOP seat, so Democrats still need a 17-seat swing to take over control of the House.

In addition to the Florida-13 result, the Democrats got another piece of bad news when the highly respected ABC News/Wall Street Journal poll had President Obama's approval rating at an all-time low (for that poll) at 41 percent. What does that mean for candidates? According to NBC.com:

"Forty-eight percent of voters say they're less likely to vote for a candidate who's a solid supporter of the Obama administration, versus 26 percent who say they're more likely to vote for that candidate."

The one thing we do know is that the mid-term elections will be held on November 4, 2014. That clock is inexorably ticking so a week of news, like this one, that causes Democrats running for office to play defense, is a week they will never get back.

This morning Thursday morning I received a tweet from Political Science Professor Larry Sabato informing his readers that "Critically, 14 of 16 seats we currently view as competitive are held by Democrats. GOP will be on the offense in Nov." He, of course, is referring to the Senate. In an earlier tweet he said the top ten are all held by Democrats.

If his "Crystal Ball" predictions are anywhere close, the Dems will have a lot of spinning to do on November 5th.

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