In commenting prospectively on the special election in the Florida 13th Congressional District to replace deceased Republican Cong. Bill Young, Sean Trende predicts a victory for the Democrat, Alex Sink, notes the symbolic importance of the election as well as its limited significance as a predictor of nationwide electoral conditions. Obama political advisor David Axelrod, reacting to Republican David Jolly’s upset victory in the special election, conceding the headwinds that the PPACA provides for Democrats, attributes the win to Democrats’ problems in getting their voters out in off-year elections.
My conclusion is that politics remains local and in this election in this year David Jolly was a better candidate for FL-13 than Alex Sink. It might also be good to keep in mind that pundits, pollsters, and reporters in all likelihood aren’t very familiar with the district and have an unavoidable temptation to project their own preferences onto candidates and elections. Conditions might look very different on the ground in the district than they do from Washington, New York, or LA.
E. J. Dionne is worried about the result of this election:
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.
I know the prevailing wisdom is that negative advertising doesn’t depress turnout but I wonder if that’s true among all groups. The Democrats aren’t dependent on voter turnout, generally. They’re dependent on voter turnout among blacks, Hispanics, and younger voters. Among younger voters in particular I wonder if the sense of futility and frustration that have been found to be produced by negative advertising won’t depress their turnout more than it does among voters, generally. Taking Mr. Dionne’s advice might have a perverse result for the Democrats.
Writing in the Tampa Times, Adam C. Smith makes a good point:
Don’t be surprised to see vulnerable Democrats across the country start distancing themselves from health care reform in a way that Sink did not.
Nobody seriously expected Democrats to win back a majority in the U.S. House in November, but Sink’s loss in a winnable swing district makes Democrats’ hold on the U.S. Senate majority look more tenuous than before the special election.
I think that’s right but I also think that he’s over-interpreting and over-reacting. If Democrats around the country start over-interpreting and over-reacting similarly, such political support as exists for the PPACA will be hard to maintain.