What will the outcome in the special election in Florida’s 13th district tell us about the political environment this fall? Commentators are gearing up to ascribe all sorts of significance to it, chiefly in terms of what it will tell us about whether Obamacare will prove the decisive vulnerability for Dems that Republicans claim it will.
This stuff is always overstated: whoever wins in this swing district that elected Obama in 2012 by the narrowest of margins, the outcome won’t really tell us anything about this fall’s elections, for a host of reasons. Even Florida GOP consultant Rick Wilson says that, given that this is likely a low turnout special election, the money spent on ads and voter mobilization could be the key factor. It’s a cliché, but…turnout!
In an interview, Dem Alex Sink’s pollster, Geoff Garin, conceded a big built-in GOP edge.
“We expect there to be a substantial Republican registration advantage among those who vote in this election of 10 to 12 points,” Garin told me. That sounds forbidding, but a good Tampa Bay Times analysis provides context, noting early voting suggests a real edge for Sink and that she’s showing better appeal among Republicans than conservative GOP candidate David Jolly has shown among Dems.
Garin said the campaign’s polling confirmed that assessment. “She has been doing well with independent voters, and her emphasis on bipartisanship is helping her create some crossover appeal with registered Republicans, while Jolly’s decision to play to the right means he has zero crossover potential with Democrats.”
What about Obamacare? GOP groups have been saturating the district with anti-ACA ads. Sink has directly engaged with her own ad hitting Jolly over the consequences of repeal and standing up for the ad’s core goals.
Asked if the law is a vulnerability, Garin insists Sink polling shows taking on the issue was the right call. “By engaging in the debate over the ACA, we have more than leveled the playing field on this issue,” he says. “Slightly more voters now say they trust Sink to do the right thing on health care and Obamacare than trust Jolly.”
Like other Dem candidates — Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky and Michelle Nunn in Georgia — Sink didn’t vote for the law, so it’s less likely to be an albatross. Of course, it’s fair to point out that if she does win after engaging on it, Dems like Mary Landrieu, Mark Pryor, and Kay Hagan did vote for it and could have more trouble.
Dems say the race is pretty much tied. But whoever wins, unpredictable vagaries such as turnout will matter more to the outcome. It would be a mistake to extrapolate too much in terms of what it means on Obamacare or anything else in 2014.
* ONLY REPUBLICANS OPPOSE CITIZENSHIP: The New York Times/CBS poll has Obama’s approval at 41 percent, with the GOP ahead in the ballout matchup by three — midterms are good for the GOP. But on issues GOP isolation continues. The internals have a key immigration finding: While majorities of Americans and independents support allowing undocumenteds to stay and apply for citizenship, Republicans are alone in opposition.
Only 36 percent of Republicans support allowing undocumenteds to apply for citizenship, while a total of 61 percent support either allowing them to stay while prohibiting citizenship (22) or requiring them to leave (39). Remember, there is a compromise solution that would offer legal status with the promise of eventual citizenship through conventional (not “special”) pathways later. But it’s a nonstarter for a majority of Republicans — hence, inaction.
* ONLY REPUBLICANS OPPOSE MINIMUM WAGE HIKE: Another nugget from the NYT/CBS poll: 65 percent of Americans, and 62 percent of independents, favor raising the minimum wage to $10.10. Republicans are all alone in opposition, with 54 percent of them opposing a minimum wage hike (though even here a substantial number of them — 42 percent — support this). Is there a pattern here?
* ONLY REPUBLICANS SUPPORT REPEALING OBAMACARE: One last nugget from the NYT/CBS poll: Fifty percent say there are “good things” in the law but that changes are needed, and another six percent say it’s good as is (totaling 56 percent), versus only 42 percent who want it repealed entirely. Among indys: 51-42.
But 70 percent of Republican want it repealed entirely. While public disapproval of the ACA is certainly high, Republicans are alone in not wanting to give it a chance to work.
* YEP — REPUBLICANS HAVE A REPEAL PROBLEM: Look no further than this Charlotte Observer article welcoming Thom Tillis, the expected GOP candidate against Senator Kay Hagan, to the race. It notes that Tillis knows repeal is an untenable position, yet he can’t embrace any alternative without getting slammed from the right by his primary opponent.
I’ve already noted Tillis’ previous effort to explain his stance. Question: If “explaining is losing,” as we keep hearing, does this also apply to Republicans struggling to explain their repeal stance?
* TWO BIG WINS FOR GAY RIGHTS: As expected, Governor Jan Brewer vetoed the anti-gay legislation in Arizona yesterday, and I think Evan Soltas gets it right: Between that and a Texas judge striking down that state’s ban on gay marriage, that makes yesterday a big day for gay rights. Or, as Sam Stein put it:
Big wins today for the gay communities in Texas and Arizona. Not often you get to type that sentence.
The future holds the promise of many more sentences like that one.
* RELIGIOUS CONSERVATIVES SHOULD WELCOME VETO: E.J. Dionne with a fascinating point:
Those who cherish religious faith ought to be heartsick that it is so often invoked not to advance compassion and understanding but rather to justify discrimination and even bigotry. This is doing serious harm to our religious traditions, particularly among the young…Most Americans…make a sensible distinction between guarding the rights of religious groups and allowing wholesale discrimination against gays and lesbians in commerce.
* DEMS KEEP UP PRESSURE ON UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS: Worth a watch: The Dem-allied Americans United for Change is up with an interesting ad on Chicago cable that pressures GOP Senator Mark Kirk to vote Yes the next time the unemployment benefits extension comes up for a vote. The ad holds Kirk directly responsible for cutting a lifeline to thousands of Illinois residents who can’t find work despite continued searching.
Kirk is one of a few GOP Senators who might be vulnerable to pressure on UI. He’s up in 2016 in a blue state and will be facing a presidential year electorate very different from the Tea-infused one he rode to victory in 2010.
* AND THE REAL REASON DEMS MAY LOSE THE SENATE: Political scientist Alan Abramowitz nails it:
The main reason why Democrats are at risk of losing control of the Senate in November is not because of public discontent with the Affordable Care Act, continued weakness in the economy or President Obama’s mediocre approval ratings. All of these issues may have an impact on the Senate elections. But the Democrats’ biggest problem this year is that they were so successful in the 2008 Senate elections. While Barack Obama was capturing the White House in 2008, Democrats gained eight net seats in the Senate, winning 20 of the 35 seats at stake. Now Democrats must defend all of the seats that they won six years ago…of the Democratic seats up for grabs this year, seven are in states that were carried by Mitt Romney in 2012.
In other words, it’s the fundamentals, stupid. Again, the following two things can be true at the same time: 1) Dems may lose the Senate; 2) Even if that happens, Obamacare is not likely to be a leading reason why.