Politics
Republican David Jolly speaks during a candidate forum with Democrat Alex Sink and Libertarian Lucas Overby, all candidates for Florida Republican David Jolly speaks during a candidate forum with Democrat Alex Sink and Libertarian Lucas Overby, all candidates for Florida's congressional District 13, in Clearwater, Florida, February 25, 2014. Sink and Jolly are in a race for a special election to be held on March 11, 2014 to elect a member of the United States House of Representatives to replace the seat of the late Republican Congressman Bill Young. REUTERS/Brian Blanco (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS) - RTR3FPQP  

Jolly wins election that tested Obamacare’s appeal

Photo of Alexis Levinson
Alexis Levinson
Political Reporter

Republican David Jolly is the new congressman for Florida’s 13th District.

On Tuesday, he beat out Democrat Alex Sink 48.5 percent to 46.7 percent to take the seat that has been empty since Republican Rep. Bill Young passed away last year.

Jolly’s victory bodes well for Republicans heading into the 2014 midterm elections in November — the closely watched race was a test run for how Obamacare would affect Democrats in the upcoming elections, and whether it would be as problematic as the GOP hoped. Sink said she supported the law, but acknowledged it needed some fixes. Jolly was for a full repeal.

Republicans relentlessly hammered Sink on her support for the law, and, in this case, it seemed to be a winning item for them. When the final numbers came in, Republicans trumpeted victory on that front heading into November.

“His victory shows that voters are looking for representatives who will fight to end the disaster of Obamacare, to get Washington to spend our money responsibly, and to put power in the hands of families and individuals,” said Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus in a statement. “In November, voters all across the country will have the chance to send the same message that Pinellas County voters have sent: Democrats’ policies are not working for America.”

“Tonight, 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,” said National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Greg Walden in a statement.

Democrats, meanwhile downplayed the relevance of the race, and, particularly, the importance of Republicans attacks on Obamacare in Sink’s loss, saying that Jolly had “underperformed” expectations.

“Alex put this district in play despite Republicans spending $5 million against her, and she came closer to victory in a historically Republican district than any Democrat has in decades,” said Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel.

“Democrats will fight for FL-13 in the midterm, when the electorate is far less heavily tilted toward Republicans. Despite those millions from Republican outside groups, they underperformed because the only message they offered voters – repealing the ACA – is out of touch and failed to bring them even close to their historically wide margins,” he added.

Geoff Garin, Sink’s pollster, said in a memo that her support for Obamacare was actually a positive for her, saying that it helped her pull independent voters “that almost negated the entirety of the Republicans’ superior numbers in the partisan turnout.”

But the fact that Republicans won in this race, against Sink, who entered the race with better name ID than Jolly, and in a swing district, seems to forecast good news for Republicans in November. The GOP’s major challenge in 2014 is taking back control of the Senate, and the group of Democratic incumbents they are looking to oust lack more evenly split electorates that opted against Sink, and must instead face electorates in red states.

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