First election of 2014 tests Obamacare

Alexis Levinson Political Reporter
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The 2014 elections are upon us.

On Tuesday, voters in Florida’s 13th Congressional District will go to the polls for the first election of the year, where they will choose between Democrat Alex Sink and Republican David Jolly to fill the seat vacated by the late Rep. Bill Young.

Around $9 million has been spent by outside groups to push their respective candidates in this special election that is seen as the first test for Obamacare in the midterm elections.

Republicans have relentlessly focused on Sink’s support for Obamacare, which she says she supports even if it is not perfect and still needs some fixing itself.

“We can’t go back to letting insurance companies do whatever they want,” she says in a television ad, the Associated Press reported. “Instead of repealing the health law, we need to keep what’s right and fix what’s wrong.”

It has become the signature issue of the race, and Republicans hope that a win could preview the November elections by illustrating how toxic the healthcare law has become for Democratic candidates, specifically vulnerable Democratic Senators targeted by the GOP this cycle.

If Sink were to win, on the other hand, it could embolden Democrats, demonstrating that support for the healthcare law was not the albatross that some have made it out to be.

Heading into the election, Democratic polling firm Public Policy Polling gives Sink the edge, 48 percent to 45 percent, with Libertarian candidate Lucas Overby taking six percent, in a poll conducted over the weekend. The poll was conducted for LCV Fund and not publicly released on PPP’s website — it was first reported by DailyKos, a liberal website. It surveyed 702 likely voters from March 7 through March 9 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.

The poll finds Sink’s advantage in her appeal to independent voters, 61 percent of whom said they would support her, compared to just 27 percent for Jolly. She also led among the 60 percent who said they had voted early: 52 percent of early voters said they would support Sink, compared to 45 percent for Jolly. Sink trails in voters who plan to go to the polls Tuesday, 41 percent to 45 percent.

Both candidates have their flaws. Jolly is a former aide to Republican Rep. C.W. Bill Young, who held the seat for 42 years until his death last October, so while he was born in the district, he spent much of the past two decades in Washington, D.C.

He also worked as a lobbyist for a time, giving Sink an easy opening for attack. Politico reported that National Republicans were criticizing the Jolly campaign, which they have spent millions of dollars to boost, for running a poor campaign operations with poor optics.

Sink, for her part, can be awkward on the stump and in debates — when she ran against now Florida Gov. Rick Scott in 2010, she drew fire for breaking the rules to look at her phone during a debate. She has also had to beat back the “carpetbagger” label that Republicans have pushed on her as she did not live in the district until she decided to run for the House seat.

It remains to be seen just how much of a crystal ball this race will prove to be for November — but election season has officially kicked off.

*A typo turned millions of dollars into billions. The correct amount of money spent on this race is in the millions.

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