"Rep.-elect David Jolly" (R) will take Dems some time getting used to, but that's the reality after he defeated Alex Sink (D) by almost 2 points in the FL-13 special Tuesday night. Health care played an important role, as it seems destined to do in many more high-profile races this year. But it wasn't the only factor in play.
-- President Obama won FL-13 twice, but in many ways it's not a typical "Obama district." He narrowly won it twice, but its demographic makeup is a lot different than other Dem-leaning seats. In particular, it is older and whiter than many Obama districts: Whites over 45 comprise 44% of the population there, compared to 29% nationally. Compared to other Florida districts, there aren't many Hispanics there.
-- Without exit polls, we don't know how different groups voted. (Some Dems involved said Sink was competitive with older voters.) But it wasn't enough, and older whites have proven most hostile to Obamacare -- and Obamacare was the main thrust of the GOP's anti-Sink campaign. Don't look now, but older whites also play outsized roles in the important red-state Senate races this year, including contests in West Virginia, Montana, North Carolina and Arkansas.
-- Sink pollster Geoff Garin argued that Obamacare actually helped Sink among independents, but it couldn't overcome Democrats' major turnout disadvantage compared to Republicans. Obamacare is a big motivator for the type of voters already more likely to turn out in non-presidential elections, and while DCCC chair Steve Israel said Wednesday that Dems were able to bend turnout toward them a bit, it clearly wasn't enough. Special election turnout is far worse than midterm turnout, but it's still a symptom of Democratic GOTV issues in non-presidential scenarios. (This morning, the DSCC said it points to the importance of their big field project for this fall.)
One last item to ponder here: Just in case anyone was unsure about what outside money can do these days, consider that Sink outspent Jolly around 4-1 on TV, but the GOP portion of $9 million in outside spending helped even things up.
-- Scott Bland