I find it pretty interesting that yesterday’s special election in my hometown District 13 has grabbed so many headlines. Usually when an event in Florida makes national news, it involves hanging chads, hurricanes, or somebody getting shot–not an electoral contest in which everything went smoothly. For those of you who don’t hail from here, the election was to succeed longtime Pinellas County congressman Bill Young, who passed away last October after serving more than 40 years in office. Newcomer David Jolly ran against a much better known Democrat Alex Sink, who most recently made headlines by narrowly losing the governor’s race to Rick Scott four years ago. As expected, Sink and her backers dumped a whole lotta money into the race, outspending Jolly by a nearly 3-to-1 margin–not that it did much good. In a rather surprising upset, Jolly managed to squeak it out against Sink by less than two percentage points, proving yet again that money can’t necessarily buy you love or special elections.
So now the political pundits are abuzz over what this all means. Personally, I think that people can get a wee bit carried away using a single event to divine what the future may bring–just take a look at Punxsutawney Phil. But hey, the 24-hour news beast demands content, so who am I to judge? In that spirit, here’s my take on the election and what it portends for the mid-terms in November.
- Democrats are in a funk. Sure, elections come down to making a broad appeal to independent voters, but none of that matters much if you don’t turn out your base. And in spite of her solidly liberal credentials and enthusiastic backing by the party, Alex Sink couldn’t motivate Democrat voters to show up for her in force. Granted, part of that had to do with her less-than-electric personality (Sink spent most of the campaign looking like she couldn’t wait for the whole thing to be over), but with his tightly-scripted demeanor, Jolly wasn’t exactly lighting any fires either. The difference was that Republican voters were strongly motivated. The Dems, not so much. Between the NSA, the IRS and the failed promise of the Obama presidency, a lot of them figured now was as good a time as any to ask for the check.
- Obamacare is a problem. In the way that the iceberg was a problem for the Titanic. Or that the pot is a problem for Justin Bieber. Far from being the signature achievement of the Democrat Party, Obamacare has become a toxic waste dump that nobody knows how to clean up and nobody wants to take responsibility for. Between the insurance cancellations, changing rules, and a website rollout that made the release of Windows 8 seem like a blockbuster success by comparison, Jolly was wise to make opposition to Obamacare a central theme of his campaign. Come November, Democrats may think that isn’t such a bad strategy themselves.
- District 13 is a write off for Dems. I heard a rather astute political scientist mention on a local radio station this morning that David Jolly shouldn’t get too comfortable in Washington, because this November they’re gonna get all Jaws The Revenge on him, pouring in even more money and sending in their top guns in the hopes of getting some payback. Meh. It’s more likely that the national party will be reading the tea leaves and assuming that this one is a loser, pretty much along with the rest of the country. Because if this does start looking like a wave election for Republicans, my guess is that the big-name donors will decide to sit this one out and keep their powder–not to mention their money–dry for 2016. Nothing is more foolish than throwing good money after bad, especially after blowing a pretty significant wad on what has turned out to be the costliest special election in history.