SPOTLIGHT

Walking On Sunshine

Florida congressional District 13 candidates, Democrat Alex Sink, left, and Republican David Jolly. 
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March 10, 2014, 7:40 a.m.

Des­pite Re­pub­lic­an pess­im­ism over a flawed nom­in­ee in this Tues­day’s closely-watched FL-13 spe­cial elec­tion between Alex Sink (D) and Dav­id Jolly (R), all in­dic­a­tions are Tues­day’s bell­weth­er con­test should be a nailbiter.

As of Sunday, Re­pub­lic­ans hold a four-point (4,623 vote) lead over Demo­crats among early voters, which should com­prise a ma­jor­ity of the elect­or­ate. The early GOP vote edge is smal­ler than the party’s ad­vant­ages be­fore the 2010 and 2012 FL-GOV and pres­id­en­tial elec­tions, where Demo­crats pre­vailed with­in the dis­trict. But Re­pub­lic­ans are ex­pect­ing strong Elec­tion Day turnout, while hop­ing to cap­it­al­ize on dis­af­fec­tion among in­de­pend­ents and even some Demo­crats, too.

— The con­test is prov­ing to be a cru­cial test of wheth­er Demo­crats can de­fend them­selves from at­tacks over Obama­care and the pres­id­ent’s policies. FL-13 is one of the old­est CDs in the coun­try, filled with plenty of seni­ors dis­af­fected with the pres­id­ent. (Obama nar­rowly won with 50% in 2012.) A Sink vic­tory would show that des­pite the tough en­vir­on­ment Demo­crats face, they can pre­vail with a strong can­did­ate and ef­fect­ive get-out-the-vote ef­forts. Sink was hit with ads at­tack­ing her sup­port for Obama­care; her pivot call­ing for fixes over re­peal is something we’ll be hear­ing from oth­er vul­ner­able Demo­crats.

— Re­pub­lic­ans are grous­ing about Jolly’s prob­lems as a can­did­ate, but his flaws were ap­par­ent from the out­set. For a lob­by­ist, he didn’t lever­age his con­nec­tions in­to rais­ing the money ne­ces­sary for a na­tion­ally-watched cam­paign. His Wash­ing­ton ties didn’t help him bring in tal­en­ted people to run his race, either. It’s a les­son of the im­port­ance of re­cruit­ing and back­ing elect­able can­did­ates. But if Re­pub­lic­ans can win des­pite a weak nom­in­ee, it’s a sign 2014 could be yet an­oth­er wave elec­tion.

One wild card: the pres­ence of Liber­tari­an Lu­cas Overby on the bal­lot, who has polled in the mid single-di­gits. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) re­cor­ded a last-minute rob­ocall to urge his sup­port­ers to back Jolly. If this race is as close as the early vote in­dic­ates, it’s plaus­ible that the third-party can­did­ate could play the role of spoil­er.
— Josh Kraush­aar

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