March 12, 2014

Florida Special Election Results - Good, Bad and Ugly

Republican David Jolly defeated Democrat Alex Sink on Tuesday in a Tampa-area House district where President Barack Obama's health care overhaul got its first test ahead of November's midterm elections and both sides spent millions auditioning national strategies.

With almost 100 percent of the vote counted, Jolly had 48.5 percent of the vote to Sink's 46.7 percent. Libertarian Lucas Overby had 4.8 percent. The election was to replace 42-year Republican Rep. CW Bill Young, who died in October of cancer, and the evenly divided district had been considered a toss-up.
Was it a precursor for the 2014 midterms like Politico seemed to think?  Or was CBS right in their call that it was not going to be predictive or deterministic for November?

First the good for conservatives - If you add Jolly and Overby's vote percentage, 53.3% of the popular vote.  That's a strong showing for right-side voters in today's political climate.  Translating 53% into a national campaign for comparison purposes, the presidential 'landslide' by Obama over John McCain in 2008 saw Obama garner 52.9% of the popular vote but garner 365 electoral college votes out of 538 possible.  If that absolute majority of voters who are not onside with Obamacare turn out in the midterms it will indeed be really bad news for the Democrats.

The other bit of good news is that despite all of the outside money, Democrat spending advantage and presence of Bill Clinton and absence of Obama in the race, the GOP candidate still won.  Perhaps the negatives of Obama have finally started to outshine the positives of Bill Clinton with voters.

Even MSNBC found it hard to put a positive spin on this for Democrats:

The bad.

Despite the numeric advantage in percentages for the , the voting was still extremely close.  According to the Washington Post,
Jolly outpaced Democrat Alex Sink by about 3,400 votes out of 183,000. The Associated Press called the race for Jolly less than an hour after polls closed.
That's not really all that much. And when it comes right down to it, you can't really add Libertarian votes to Republican votes. Yes, they are fairly well aligned ideologically in many respects, but the votes are not additive. In fact, if the Libertarian mindset continues to gain ground among conservative voters, it could ultimately prove detrimental to the GOP, and beneficial to Democrats during the midterms.

The time between now and November is not insignificant.  A lot could change, and the GOP could make mistakes taking voters and the political climate for granted as well.  Actually that might get ugly.

The ugly.

If there is an ugly, it probably resides in the voter turnout.  According to Yahoo News,
Sink had held a slight lead in the polls throughout the campaign against Jolly, a Republican lobbyist in Washington, D.C., but may have been hurt by poor turnout of 39 percent, far below the 2012 election.
39% makes it difficult to get a read on even a midterm election where turnout tends to be lower as well. For Republicans, this should have been a bigger win because Obamacare should have driven a higher turnout among those opposed to it. It didn't. Despite the win by Jolly in the face of all the headwinds, turnout should have made a bigger difference, Whether that is because of what MSNBC pundits mentioned in the clip above as Republicans stinking slightly less than Democrats or because of the flaws in the candidate himself remains to be seen.

As an interesting aside, in the MSNBC clip above they talked a lot about Jolly as a flawed candidate but then tried to pin that flaw on all of the GOP. Either that's wishful thinking on their part, or deliberately planned mischaracterization to help smear the party leading into the midterms.

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