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
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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