Many Republicans argued that if the Democrats could not win this district, they were going have a lot of trouble picking up seats anywhere else.
But Democrats should not fool themselves about this result. It is a huge disappointment for them, and an important Republican victory. It is a sign that Democrats need to retool their response on Obamacare and sharpen their economic arguments. In a race that cost some $12.7 million, outside conservative groups ran an aggressive and coordinated campaign to discredit Obamacare and Sink. This sort of thing will happen for the rest of the year in district after district, and state after state. If Democrats aren’t effective in discrediting the outside groups and their misleading ads against the health-care law, they will confront more results like Tuesday’s.
Sink did a decent job mobilizing early voters and narrowly carried them. But Jolly won by even more among voters who cast ballots on Election Day itself. This just underscores a truth that everyone is aware of: Voter turnout efforts will be central to how the rest of the 2014 races turn out.
On Tuesday morning, before the results were in, Greg Sargent made a good case on his Plum Line blog against making too much of the Florida 13 result one way or another. He argued that it’s a mistake to judge what the impact of Obamacare in November — eight months from now – on the basis of a single special election in March. I agree with that, and Republicans may well be taking the wrong lesson if they put too much of their money on the-health care issue this fall. A lot depends, as Sargent argued, on “how the law fares over time.”
Nonetheless, this was a rare toss-up seat that Democrats should have been able to win. Republicans and their outside allies will be encouraged to spend more, and they will have an easier time raising the money. No wonder John Boehner was tweeting so much.