David Jolly's huge 2% victory in bellwether congressional special election

The prospect of a wave election sweeping out Democrats nationally in 2014 just got stronger, as first time GOP candidate David Jolly defeated former Democrat Florida gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink in a special election by 48.5 percent to 46.6 percent, according to The Associated Press. Jolly’s defeat of Sink in the special election to fill the seat vacated by Bill Young in Florida’s 13th Congressional District came despite being outspent by 4 to 1, as Democrats poured resources into the race in hopes of refuting the thesis that Obamacare dooms Democrats in the mid-terms. Josh Kraushaar writes in the National Journal:

Tuesday night's special election in Florida should be a serious scare for Democrats who worry that Obamacare will be a major burden for their party in 2014. Despite recruiting favored candidate Alex Sink, outspending Republicans, and utilizing turnout tools to help motivate reliable voters, Democrats still lost to Republican lobbyist David Jolly—and it wasn't particularly close.

The Republican tool: lots of advertisements hitting Sink over Obamacare, even though she wasn't even in Congress to vote for it. Sink's response was from the Democratic playbook: Call for fixes, but hit her opponent for supporting repeal. Sink won 46 percent of the vote, 2 points behind Jolly and 4 points below President Obama's 2012 total in the district.

It must be noted that Sink was widely regarded as a skillful candidate, while Jolly was not. The recently-divorced Jolly was accompanied on some campaign stops by his new, much younger, girlfriend, and has worked as a lobbyist, not the most promising background as a novice candidate. That said, Sink did manage to put her foot firmly in her mouth when she remarked on February 25 that “immigration reform was important…because, without it, it would be difficult for employers to find people to clean hotel rooms and do landscaping.” Still, as a veteran campaigner enjoying strong backing, skilled advisers, and a funding advantage, if she couldn’t pull off a win, a lot of Democrats have got to be asking themselves what new careers they might be pursuing in late 2014. Kraushaar again:

 Democrats are hoping to make challenging Senate races a referendum between likable incumbents and undefined challengers in red-state races in Louisiana, North Carolina, and even Arkansas with freshman Rep. Tom Cotton. Jolly's background was about as unfavorable as it gets—a Washington influence-peddler. That was the theme of attacks from Sink and other Democratic outside groups. It's only one race, but it's a sign that the national environment could trump the micro-advantages battle-tested incumbents bring to the table.

Democrats are spinning furiously in a futile effort to minimize the damage, claiming the seat was a GOP fortress. Although the seat had been in GOP hands for decades as the popular Young held it, the district has trended Democrat and was carried by Sink when she ran for governor, and by Barack Obama in both presidential elections.

Many observers, including Real Clear Politics’ polling maven Sean Trende, had predicted a Sink victory. Trende wrote yesterday:

There hasn't been much independent polling in this race. The Tampa Bay Times and Saint Leo University released polls in early February showing Sink up 7 and 9 points, respectively. A PPP poll conducted the weekend before Election Day for the League of Conservation Voters showed Sink with a smaller, 48-45, advantage.

Obamacare was the issue in the race, as Sink, who had not been in Congress to vote on it, nevertheless defended the law, and Jolly denounced it.

The biggest influence of the outcome will almost certainly be fundraising. Democrats are going to have a much harder time persuading donors to open their pocketbooks to Senate and congressional campaigners in hopes of holding their Senate majority, and the prospects of a Democrat takeover of the House are now very slim indeed. No one will publicly say so, of course, but the instinct of lefty moneybags will be to put their chips on a Hillary Clinton 2016 presidential campaign.

It must be noted that the Libertarian candidate pulled in 5% of the vote. It is hard to know which side was hurt more by this potential spoiler vote. But Libertarians are shaping up as a possible swing vote, depending on whether Republicans can distance themselves from social conservative issues more than Democrats can avoid the Big Government taint.

The prospect of a wave election sweeping out Democrats nationally in 2014 just got stronger, as first time GOP candidate David Jolly defeated former Democrat Florida gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink in a special election by 48.5 percent to 46.6 percent, according to The Associated Press. Jolly’s defeat of Sink in the special election to fill the seat vacated by Bill Young in Florida’s 13th Congressional District came despite being outspent by 4 to 1, as Democrats poured resources into the race in hopes of refuting the thesis that Obamacare dooms Democrats in the mid-terms. Josh Kraushaar writes in the National Journal:

Tuesday night's special election in Florida should be a serious scare for Democrats who worry that Obamacare will be a major burden for their party in 2014. Despite recruiting favored candidate Alex Sink, outspending Republicans, and utilizing turnout tools to help motivate reliable voters, Democrats still lost to Republican lobbyist David Jolly—and it wasn't particularly close.

The Republican tool: lots of advertisements hitting Sink over Obamacare, even though she wasn't even in Congress to vote for it. Sink's response was from the Democratic playbook: Call for fixes, but hit her opponent for supporting repeal. Sink won 46 percent of the vote, 2 points behind Jolly and 4 points below President Obama's 2012 total in the district.

It must be noted that Sink was widely regarded as a skillful candidate, while Jolly was not. The recently-divorced Jolly was accompanied on some campaign stops by his new, much younger, girlfriend, and has worked as a lobbyist, not the most promising background as a novice candidate. That said, Sink did manage to put her foot firmly in her mouth when she remarked on February 25 that “immigration reform was important…because, without it, it would be difficult for employers to find people to clean hotel rooms and do landscaping.” Still, as a veteran campaigner enjoying strong backing, skilled advisers, and a funding advantage, if she couldn’t pull off a win, a lot of Democrats have got to be asking themselves what new careers they might be pursuing in late 2014. Kraushaar again:

 Democrats are hoping to make challenging Senate races a referendum between likable incumbents and undefined challengers in red-state races in Louisiana, North Carolina, and even Arkansas with freshman Rep. Tom Cotton. Jolly's background was about as unfavorable as it gets—a Washington influence-peddler. That was the theme of attacks from Sink and other Democratic outside groups. It's only one race, but it's a sign that the national environment could trump the micro-advantages battle-tested incumbents bring to the table.

Democrats are spinning furiously in a futile effort to minimize the damage, claiming the seat was a GOP fortress. Although the seat had been in GOP hands for decades as the popular Young held it, the district has trended Democrat and was carried by Sink when she ran for governor, and by Barack Obama in both presidential elections.

Many observers, including Real Clear Politics’ polling maven Sean Trende, had predicted a Sink victory. Trende wrote yesterday:

There hasn't been much independent polling in this race. The Tampa Bay Times and Saint Leo University released polls in early February showing Sink up 7 and 9 points, respectively. A PPP poll conducted the weekend before Election Day for the League of Conservation Voters showed Sink with a smaller, 48-45, advantage.

Obamacare was the issue in the race, as Sink, who had not been in Congress to vote on it, nevertheless defended the law, and Jolly denounced it.

The biggest influence of the outcome will almost certainly be fundraising. Democrats are going to have a much harder time persuading donors to open their pocketbooks to Senate and congressional campaigners in hopes of holding their Senate majority, and the prospects of a Democrat takeover of the House are now very slim indeed. No one will publicly say so, of course, but the instinct of lefty moneybags will be to put their chips on a Hillary Clinton 2016 presidential campaign.

It must be noted that the Libertarian candidate pulled in 5% of the vote. It is hard to know which side was hurt more by this potential spoiler vote. But Libertarians are shaping up as a possible swing vote, depending on whether Republicans can distance themselves from social conservative issues more than Democrats can avoid the Big Government taint.

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