Republicans have won a special Congressional election in Florida in what is seen by many political pundits as the first real test of the important issues in the upcoming mid-term elections. Republican David Jolly narrowly beat Democratic challenger Alex Sink for an open seat in Congress from a district near Tampa. It was somewhat of a surprise, as Sink had outspent Jolly by quite a bit, and also appeared to be ahead in the polls right up until shortly before the polls closed.
With Jolly in Congress until the mid-term elections in November, when he must run again, this means that Democrats need to gain 17 seats to win back majority in the House of Representatives. Because this special election focused on the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare), which Jolly opposed and Sink favored, this is being touted as a sign that voters do not like the act, and that Democrats who support it may have a hard time gaining those necessary seats in the mid-terms.
Special Elections and Testing the Issues
Special elections like this one, especially so close to the time of a national election, are often seen as excellent opportunities to test out the issues that will be important in the fall. Each party has a chance to experiment with campaign themes and strategies, and see what voters are responding to the most. This provides knowledge that will be beneficial to both parties in the upcoming mid-term elections. Right now, the results are looking favorable for the Republicans, but only slightly. Jolly beat Sink by only 3,400 votes.
Is the Affordable Care Act the Issue for the Fall Elections?
Though Jolly was not as well-known as Sink, had less money, and had the drawback of being seen as a Washington insider due to his profession as a professional lobbyist, he still won. Republicans feel this justifies their theory in running him again since the Affordable Care Act is the prime issue for the fall. Both Jolly and Sink said local issues played a much bigger role than Obamacare in the special election, but Republican leaders said it was all about healthcare. They are taking it as a mandate from voters that they do not approve of the Affordable Care Act and want it repealed, something Jolly favors doing. Even Democratic leaders are now concerned that supporting the Affordable Care Act may cost them the House in the upcoming elections.
Jolly Vs. Sink – What Did the Voters Really Want at the Polls?
While no one is 100 percent certain what gave Jolly his surprise, last-minute victory, Democratic leaders are staying close to their traditional support of the Affordable Care Act by saying that the issue is what made the election so close in the first place. They point out that Republicans fell significantly short of their typical margin of victory in this district because Jolly focused so singularly on repealing Obamacare, which Democratic leaders believe most voters support. They believe Jolly would have won by a higher margin, if he’d focused on other issues.
It’s true that the Affordable Care Act was the main focus of the election. However, other big, national issues were also discussed. Jolly and Sink each claimed the other would undermine Medicare. Jolly said Sink would make cuts to the program due to budgetary necessity caused by Obamacare. Sink, on the other hand, accused Jolly of being an extreme right-winger who not only wanted to de-fund Medicare as an entitlement program, but who also wanted to privatize Social Security.
The Final Word on the Republican Win in Florida
While it seems like the Affordable Care Act may be an issue for Democrats to tackle to beat Republicans in the fall, it may not be all about that at all. The reality is that the district Jolly and Sink were battling over is 37 percent Republican, 35 percent Democrat, and 24 percent independent, and more Republicans came to the polls for the special election than Democrats. While the Florida election may make Democrats want to adjust their position on the Affordable Care Act a little, it does not mean this is the only issue of importance to voters, or even that voters oppose the act. Right now, it just means Democrats need to get more voters to the polls in the next election.