It’s rare in politics that anything other than a presidential contest is viewed as a “must win” — but the special election in Florida’s 13th District falls into that category for Democrats.This race conjures up a feeling of deja vu and fond memories of Bob Turner's 2011 upset win of Anthony Weiner's seat after the congressman took early retirement following his Twitter scandal. This time instead of fielding a state senator with modest political skills the Democrats have gone with their heaviest hitter, Alex Sink. Sink was elected to Florida's office of Chief Financial Officer in 2006. In 2010 she ran for governor and lost to Rick Scott by a mere 61,550 votes out of a total 3.5 million votes cast. She starts the campaign with over $1 million on hand and has been able to fund raise nationally in previous elections.
A loss in the competitive March 11 contest would almost certainly be regarded by dispassionate observers as a sign that President Barack Obama could constitute an albatross around the neck of his party’s nominees in November. And that could make it more difficult for Democratic candidates, campaign committees and interest groups to raise money and energize the grass roots.
Fundamentally, the district, left vacant by the death of longtime Republican Rep. C.W. Bill Young, looks competitive but has a slight Democratic tinge. Barack Obama carried it 52 percent to 48 percent in 2008, but he had a more narrow victory four years later, when he won 50 percent to 49 percent.
The Republican candidate David Jolly is excruciatingly unremarkable. He was once Congressman Young's chief of staff before turning lobbyist. While Sink has two statewide races under her belt Jolly has no electoral experience, while Sink has $1 million in cash Jolly has $140,000, while Emily's List endorses Sink and has begun mailing out brochures no national organization has stepped up for Jolly. The NRCC did run $100,000 in anti-Sink ads after she received her party's nomination but outside funding has not flowed to Jolly.
Jolly has one thing going for him, Sink's support for Obamacare. Obamacare is not popular with any segment of the population but it's almost anathema to the over 65 demographic where one national poll finds 53% of them support outright repeal. In Florida's 11th district 26% of residents are over 65. In a special election with lighter turnout than a presidential election 30% of the votes may be cast by the over 65 set.
The first poll in gives the unremarkable Jolly a 4 point edge over the exalted Alex Sink. Jolly takes 46.9% to Sink's 42.8% with 4,4% going to Libertarian Lucas Overby. This could be fun!