SPOTLIGHT

Special J

Republican David Jolly heads to the stage to thank his supporters Tuesday, March 11, 2014, at the Sheraton Sand Key Resort, in Clearwater Beach, Fla.
National Journal
Scott Bland
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Scott Bland
March 12, 2014, 7:40 a.m.

“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

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