Politics Is Local, 2014 Florida Edition

by Dave Schuler on March 12, 2014

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.

Update

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.

Update 2

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.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

PD Shaw March 12, 2014 at 9:03 am

The Tampa Bay paper appears to agree

“In Alex Sink, Democrats had a better-funded, well-known nominee who ran a strong campaign against a little-known, second- or third-tier Republican who ran an often wobbly race in a district Barack Obama won twice. Outside Republican groups — much more so than the under-funded Jolly campaign — hung the Affordable Care Act and President Obama on Sink.

It worked.”

The Cook Partisan Index has this as +1 R. My criticism of this kind of “as goes Maine, so goes the rest of the country,” is there is little explanation of how Florida 13th is reflective of the rest of the country. Its sort of the flip side or your argument — perhaps the Republicans were able to nationalize the election to their advantage (usually one party tries). But they may not be able to do it elsewhere. What’s the average age of the 13th? What’s the rate of insurance? Etc. . . .

Dave Schuler March 12, 2014 at 9:15 am

Apparently, we were reading the same article at the same time, PD, as you can see from my second update.

As I suggested in my first update, I would be interested in seeing a more refined breakdown of the effective of negative campaigning by age group and ethnic background.

... March 12, 2014 at 11:00 am

Sink is a great candidate. She’s been a lawyer and a lobbyist and a banker and a politician, married to a career politician. I mean, every single thing Americans love about politics (careerism, nepotism, financial executives, lawyers and lobbyists) is something that Alex Sink can represent.

But best of all, she couldn’t beat Rick Scott in an election.

Seriously, how could she NOT win, especially when she tied herself to the most popular piece of legislation that has ever been passed in the history of the Universe (the PPACA)? Especially in a district held by Republicans since before my wife (and a substantial part of the electorate) had been born?

Personally, I think there should be an investigation by the FEC. There must have been White Panthers standing outside the polling places threatening to necklace people that didn’t vote for Jolly.

... March 12, 2014 at 11:04 am

Seriously, I hear the name Alex Sink and I think, “How has she not been elected Pope already?” She’s just that damned good.

... March 12, 2014 at 11:10 am

Seriously, Jolly’s biggest advantage is that the Presidency wasn’t on the ballot. Florida is still red in off-Presidential-year elections, as a fair amount of the Democratic constituency tends to forget elections happen at other times.

... March 12, 2014 at 11:13 am

Seriously, I forgot I sent two comments that started with “seriously”.

Quick review of the new web host: For the most part I didn’t have problems with the old hosting service, except for two things.

First, sometimes the site just wouldn’t show up. THat was a recent problem, and so far the new hosting service doesn’t seem to have that problem.

Second, it took a long time to SUBMIT comments. The comment sections always loaded quickly enough, but sometimes it would take several minutes for a comment to submit. This problem was worse on my home computers than when using my phone. However, comments now load lickety-split.

jan March 12, 2014 at 11:29 am

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.

The Tampa Bay excerpt PD posted was accurate, in that Sink was considered a top tier candidate who outspent Jolly, a truly mediocre opponent, four to one. The Clinton machine was behind her as was the national democratic party. She was a Pelosi friend — the advantages Sink had over Jolly were innumerable, including the fact that this district was seen as a purple one, trending democratic because of all the liberal snow birds flocking to the area. She was an automatic favorite and most pundits, in both parties, thought she would win. In fact the RNC had kind of given up on Jolly.

While I don’t see this as necessarily a gigantic tipping point for the Republicans, it may be indicative of voters’ trending feelings towards government and DC — something both the D & R elite like to dismiss because of their own ambitious, inside the beltway mind sets and expectations. What I’ve heard is that politicians, like Rep. Peters in Michigan, might be having even greater concerns of keeping their jobs, after the FL ‘upset.’. It may be that the sleeping giant of the average citizen has been aroused, showing less dependable characteristics and becoming more like wild cards in the upcoming election play books. And, the “possibility” of a backlash might be simmering and growing, generated from the multitude of overreaches, lies, and ineptitude the last five years of governance has produced.

Obviously, there have been no remedies offered by Congress to stem any untoward’s executive actions or inactions — perhaps, the election of 2014 will be the corrective measure needed.

One can only hope…. for change.

... March 12, 2014 at 11:51 am

Jan, every single super-liberal snowbird moves to Florida and immediately becomes a small government conservative. Not a damned one of them is ever in favor of increasing taxes, especially if it means paying for the services for which their presence has created a demand. They’ll tell you how they proudly voted for every Democratic Presidential candidate since McGovern, but they will not support a bond issue to pay for the water, sewage and road services that their presence in Florida has created. Because they didn’t move down here to make the state liberal, they moved down here for the weather and the low taxes. Every single fucking one of them.

(I can’t remember the last time I voted for a local tax increase, and I’ve voted for just about every single local tax increase on the ballot since I started voting in 1986, that hasn’t been defeated by a bunch of snowbirds who don’t want their taxes raised no matter what. Unless a sports owner needs a new stadium, of course.)

Also, all those liberal points in Sink’s favor, especially the bit about that seat becoming purple (and it will be because of Mexicans flooding into the area illegally and about a quarter of them voting), doesn’t matter, because this isn’t a Presidential election year, and large parts of the Democratic constituency tend to forget about elections if the Presidency isn’t up for grabs. The Dems will have a chance to grab Jolly’s seat again in 2016, but if they don’t take it then they’ll probably have to wait until Jolly takes another lobbying job, or 2022 or 2024 when the seat is likely to be blue.

Andy March 12, 2014 at 5:11 pm

I think Ice is right about the Snowbirds.

I wouldn’t make too much from this election, but it seems pretty obvious that Democrats probably don’t want to run on the great success of the PPACA.

jan March 12, 2014 at 6:43 pm

You’re probably right ice, especially since you live in FL. However, some of the ones interviewed seemed to be walking a fine line of kind of wanting Obamacare and yet not wanting it, at the same time, while admitting they knew little about it.

As far as Sink losing, I think she was in a far better position to take the election than Jolly. Her name recognition, moderate political groove she carved out for herself — basically a savvy, bright woman. As for Jolly, just his lobbying background, alone, should have deep-sixed him. Everyone I read seems truly surprised at how this election turned out. Even Jolly himself seemed taken aback that he actually was the winner.

... March 12, 2014 at 10:02 pm

Jan, Sink has been a lobbyist too. As well as a banker, a pol, and a lawyer. And she was married to a career pol, too.

It’s lobbyists all the way down.

... March 12, 2014 at 10:25 pm

I don’t think anyone here would mistake me for a fan of tax and spend type. But government does have a purpose, and should be funded to meet those purposes. And I have frequently (usually, in fact) voted to support adequate funding for those purposes on the state and local level.

Example: in the first election in which I could vote, in 1986, I voted for a local bond issue that would have greatly improved the local roads. It would have been paid for with tourist tax money. Everything from surface roads to the biggest highway junction in town (I-4 and the East-West Expressway in downtown Orlando) would have been improved. The voters turned it down because just maybe tourists would stop coming to Disney World and they’d be on the hook. Kept hearing, “I didn’t move to to FLAAAHreeeeDAH to pay more taxes!”

But the roads have eventually been improved. The I-4/408 interchange (they’ve stopped calling it the East-West, as apparently that was too complicated for Yankees to understand) will finally be complete. In 2018. It would have been done in 1994 if the fucking snowbirds hadn’t been such idiots. Canyou image how well traffic would have flowed in the intervening 24 years?

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