Gloomy Dems take comfort in bizarre post-election spin

Democrats awoke on Wednesday to the news that a special election in Florida's 13th district - a district that President Obama won in 2012 - went for the GOP.

Neither candidate covered themselves in glory, The winner, GOP corporate lobbyist Dave Jolly ran a rather tepid, uninspired campaign while Democrat  Alex Smith had several embarassing gaffes that dragged down her numbers.

But Sink had something Jolly didn't; an association with Obamacare. She didn't vote for it, but she didn't want to get rid of it either. She suggested "fixes" to the unfixable while Jolly yoked the ACA around Sink's neck and on election day, voters tossed her over the side.

Yes, Democrats, it's really that simple. Obamacare was the difference in a race that Democrats should have won. A woman with vast resources and name recognition couldn't beat a corproate lobbyist?  Some other force must have been at work that caused the voters to pull the lever for Jolly. Given the number and frequency of anti-Obamacare ads by outside groups, and the fact that Jolly talked it up everywhere he went, Democrats can point right at Obamacare as the author of their angst.

And that spells near curtains for many Democrats' survival in November.

But never fear. There's always post election spin they can fall back on. And boy oh boy are they gyrating like a whirling dervish.

Brian Beutler writing in Salon:

The short version is that Republicans ran hard against Obamacare in this district and won. Dave Jolly beat Alex Sink 48.5-46.7. At an extremely simplistic level Jolly’s victory vindicates the anti-Obamacare campaign, because he ran against Obamacare and won. It’s also bad news for Democrats because though it doesn’t prove Obamacare’s a big liability (and it may in fact be one), it’s consistent with the idea.

At a more nuanced level, of course, the picture’s much less clear, and though it would be unwise of Democrats to convince themselves that the Republican strategy has been entirely vindicated and start freaking out, they should be clear-eyed about the implications, which are very hard to identify, and would’ve been hard to identify even if Sink had won narrowly.

Looking at this race in isolation, you have to disentangle a bunch of connected factors to suss out how much impact Obamacare had. First, start from the fact that this historically GOP-leaning district went very narrowly for Obama in November 2012. Then correct for the fact that the special election took place in March 2014, no Obama on the ticket, and Obamacare central to the GOP campaign. But then recorrect for the fact that a talented Libertarian candidate in this elderly district probably siphoned more votes away from Sink than from Jolly (though that’s unclear as well). Add in subjective candidate quality critiques, fundraising, counterfactuals and so on and so on, and it’s suddenly extremely difficult to say how much narrower Sink’s defeat would have been were it not for Obamacare — or if Obamacare was truly decisive.

At this point, Mr. Beutler had to pause and re-orient himself. The centrifugal force caused by the rapid rotation of his thoughts put him in danger of breaking free of earth's gravity and going off on a tangent that would take him out of the known universe.

His spiral logic speaks for itself, but you might have noticed  his "nuance" is full of so many weasel words as to make his take wisful thinking rather than serious analysis. "[H]ow much narrower Sink’s defeat would have been were it not for Obamacare — or if Obamacare was truly decisive" doesn't even acknowledge the probablility that without Obamacare, Sink wins going away. The question is how many points is Obamacare worth - both as a drag on Democrats and a boost for the GOP? Since Jolly won by about two points, it's not unreasonable to posit the idea that Obamacare is worth a good 5 points for Republicans. Sink had a 3 point lead in a Democratic (PPP) poll the weekend before the election. We shouldn't attribute the entire margin to Obamacare, but the evidence is compelling enough that even Beutler should have been able to see it.

Michael Tomasky thinks Sink didn't fight hard enough for Obamacare:

There’s other evidence out there in the world that Obamacare is a political disaster only if the Democrats don’t fight for it. The media didn’t write much last week about a very interesting WashPost-ABC poll result. The survey asked people if they’d be more or less likely to vote for a candidate who backed Obamacare. It came out less likely 36, more likely 34. That’s a margin of error tie, but it’s also a huge change from four months ago, when Republican opponents had a 16-point advantage in that realm. The new poll also reported that Americans said they trusted Democrats more on health care by 44 to 36 percent.

Perhaps the best evidence though that Obamacare wasn’t a real issue came from Jolly himself, who didn’t even mention the ACA in his victory speech. He told reporters later, “This was a closely run race, we know that. I don’t take a mandate from this.”

Just hours before Jolly’s victory on Tuesday night, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that 4.2 million people have signed up for health care under the ACA. By November, eight months from now, will statistics like this make more difference than what happened in Pinellas County Tuesday night? I remind you that in the one high-profile congressional special election held in the May, 2010, the Democrat won it—Mark Critz in Pennsylvania (Like Jolly, Critz was the annointed successor of a longtime incumbent as well).  Six month later, Democrats lost 63 seats in Congress. In other words, spring special elections shouldn’t be taken as harbingers.

What neither Beutler or Tomasky mention is the bad odor that the voters hold Republicans and that any GOP candidate must fight against the perceptions being pushed by the media about the "war on women," uncaring conservatives, and the GOP's continuing "war on the Middle Class." What these erstwhile pundits can't seem to grasp - or, more likely, refuse to acknowledge because it ruins their spin -  is that Obamacare is an electoral counterweight to all this negativity being promoted by Demicrats.

The reason the public is angry about Obamacare has little to do with the Koch brothers, or any messaging by Republicans. Voters are angry with Obamacare because of their first hand experience with it - they have been damaged by it - and the only word they're getting from President Obama and the Democrats is that they should suck it up and recognize it's for their own good.

That's the true power of the issue to change the political landscape in November. In 2010, Obamacare was a theoretical that people resented for many reasons - not the least of which was the ham-handed manner the Democrats rammed it down the throats of the American people. In 2014, there will be a reckoning. And it will be based on the real world experiences with the law of real people who are suffering real consequences for Democrat's actions in passing it. If the GOP is wrong and a vast majority of people are helped by the ACA, then the Democrats have nothing to worry about.

But evidence to date says otherwise. And the range of the Democrats' defeat may only be limited by how badly the GOP civil war hurts the party in November.

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