Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
August 1, 2015

Jolly Wins Special, Florida’s 13th Starts as Lean Republican for Midterm

Republican David Jolly eked out a narrow win over Democrat Alex Sink to keep the late congressman Bill Young’s seat in the GOP column. Polls had shown the race close, but most observers expected Sink, who lost the governor’s race narrowly in 2010, to defeat Jolly by 2 or 3 points.

A former Capitol Hill staffer who became a lobbyist, Jolly had to survive a competitive GOP primary and began the sprint to the special election with little money in the bank. Sink, on the other hand, was handed the Democratic nomination and began the general election with more than $1 million in the bank.

While “outside” Republican and conservative groups poured money into the race, erasing Sink’s financial advantage, Sink seemed to have many advantages in the race. (Outside Democratic groups poured money into the race, as well.) She was an experienced campaigner with a unified party behind her, and Barack Obama carried the district twice. And Jolly had more than enough political baggage to make Sink the favorite.

Democratic strategists argued that Republicans had an advantage in the low turnout special election. But calling Florida’s 13th District a “historically Republican district” is a tough pill to swallow after more than a decade of Democratic strategists practically guaranteeing victory once Young left the seat.

According to one Democratic consultant, there is no need to overreact to a 2-point loss, but there are a couple of potentially important lessons. According to the source, Republicans appeared to have done a better job at pinning down the sample in their polling, compared to Democrats. And Sink was probably a couple weeks late in effectively responding to Obamacare attacks. That’s remarkable considering Democrats should have been more than prepared for those ads.

The Republican special election win doesn’t guarantee anything for November. But it is likely to put Democrats even more on the defensive, undermining grass-roots morale and possibly adding fuel to the argument that more Democratic dollars should go toward saving the Senate than fighting for the House.

We rated the special election as a Toss-Up throughout race, but now that Republicans won heading into the regular midterm, we’re starting Florida’s 13th District as Lean Republican in the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call ratings.

Comments (23)

  1. MrSmith

    March 11, 2014
    9:56 p.m.

    Sink won Pinellas County with 50.5% in the Governor’s race. ‘Something’ or ‘someone’ sure made a difference…

    • Alex

      March 12, 2014
      12:26 p.m.

      It all comes down to who turned out

      • MrSmith

        March 14, 2014
        9:50 p.m.

        Well. it comes down to who showed up- and why.
        The big story here is that the RINO GOP establishment fully supported a flawed conservative they didn’t want… in a Dem leaning district… and won big!
        If they repeat that strategy in November the Dems are toast.

  2. Leeza Lee

    March 11, 2014
    10:47 p.m.

    Yay. It’s only just begun. . .

  3. gzizzle

    March 12, 2014
    1:04 a.m.

    Another angle to this story is the rather large Libertarian turnout. 4.6% I think was the last count. Even with that large (in comparison to the past) turnout, the Republican still won. Libertarians generally draw from conservatives more than progressives. Even with that going against him, Jolly still won.

    • SouthronAmerican

      March 12, 2014
      2:16 a.m.

      Which they pull from varies a lot by age group so without strong exit polling it’s really tough to say. If Overby’s voters trended younger (where amoung libertarians that age support for Same Sex Marriage tends to be a make or break issue) then he likely pulled votes away from the Democrat, if they trended older (where libertarians tend to be purely fiscally oriented) then he pulled away from Jolly.

      • gzizzle

        March 12, 2014
        11:20 a.m.

        In general, Libertarians believe in Liberty. That is not a belief most Democrats hold.

        • Jim Wolfson

          March 12, 2014
          5:13 p.m.

          Nor do Boehner and McConnell. They need to go in the primaries, or I’m voting Libertarian in November.

  4. gellero

    March 12, 2014
    1:51 a.m.

    The voters are seeing through the Progressive AgitProp of War, Crony Capitalism, and Demorat corruption.

  5. Sawyer

    March 12, 2014
    2:01 a.m.

    Again, “Rothenberg is most recently known for his prediction in early 2009 that the GOP’s chances of winning back the US House of Representatives in 2010 were “zero.” wikipedia

  6. Sawyer

    March 12, 2014
    2:15 a.m.

    ‘With Iran, we need to focus on our shared interests. It is no secret that Iran is one of the few countries in the Middle East that actually wants the government of Iraq, and the majority Shia rule it represents, to succeed. Stabilizing Iraq and Afghanistan cannot happen without the active help of Iran, so our focus should be on sitting down and talking to Iran so our troops can come home and our security situation can improve. As we’ve experienced with the recent breakthroughs in North Korea, diplomacy can make even the most advanced nuclear weapons program a reversible one.” wikipedia. Nathan Gonzalez, co-author of this article. Sound familiar?

  7. Sawyer

    March 12, 2014
    2:31 a.m.

    “Instead, it [Iran] will do all it can to hamper its perceived aggressor, in this case the United States. It is no accident, then, that we are hearing of attacks on American troops by groups that receive arms from Iran. It’s only strange that it’s not happening more often.” huff post. Nathan Gonzalez.

  8. Rob D

    March 12, 2014
    4:53 a.m.

    What’s not really pointed out here is Sink basically carpetbagged into the district by renting a condo or something like that. I would be willing to bet that had an impact on those folks who were kind of sick of the ads and looking to find an actual representative.

    • halifaxresolves

      March 12, 2014
      8:53 a.m.

      It didn’t hurt Hillary

  9. Jason Hops

    March 12, 2014
    6:18 a.m.

    Diversity is a code word for less White People.

    Nobody says an Asian country that is 100% Asian needs more diversity.

    Nobody says an African country that is 100% Black needs more diversity.

    Anti-Whites claim “anti-racism” and demand diversity for White countries and ONLY White countries. They say it’s Africa for the Africans, Asia for the Asians, but White countries for EVERYBODY?

  10. AlbPerez

    March 12, 2014
    8:17 a.m.

    This is not as big a win for republicans as they think and it is a much bigger loss for democrats than they think. The libertarian candidate received almost 5% of the vote. These are disenfranchised republicans that have no liklihood of voting democrat in the future and are, very likely, forever disassociated with republicans. These numbers will likely grow between now and 2016 as security, privacy and personal liberty issues grow.

    • Layla

      March 12, 2014
      5:49 p.m.

      I’ve been walking precincts in Florida and you may be surprised to hear that people are angry with GOP leadership. Not sure how this is going to translate, but they hate John Boehner and MItch McConnell. This was surprising to me.

  11. halifaxresolves

    March 12, 2014
    8:49 a.m.

    This district voted for Obama in both of the last presidential elections. The Republicans were running a DC LOBBYIST who recently divorced his wife and had his 14 years his junior girl friend on the stump with him, who had to run in a heavily contested primary, who had to run against libertarian candidate who was covertly supported by the Democrats and who drained votes from him, and his Democrat opponent outspent him by almost one million dollars, and who ran a deeply flawed campaign, yet this far less than optimal candidate beat the Democrats hand picked darling. The Democrats hauled out all of their tricks, Mediscare, Save Social Security from the mean old Republicans, robo calls, union organizers, community agitators, door to door canvassers, massive voter data bases, and it was all for naught.
    Lots of Democrats who are running in districts that Obama didn’t carry must be polishing up their resumes. They will need them in November.

  12. Alpo2010

    March 12, 2014
    11:03 a.m.

    “While “outside” Republican and conservative groups poured money into the race, erasing Sink’s financial advantage”. What? Jolly campaign was outspent times 4!

  13. Victor Au

    March 12, 2014
    11:40 a.m.

    Mr Rothenberg said this seat was a “must win” for the Democrats, and they lost.

    All the excuses aside, the elephant in the room, Obamacare, hasn’t left.

  14. gregd01

    March 12, 2014
    12:36 p.m.

    This article was linked from a Jan 9 column that called this election a “must win” for Democrats. Isn’t it funny how when politicians lose the “must wins” it is all of sudden not that important of a barometer any more.

  15. Jim Wolfson

    March 12, 2014
    5:12 p.m.

    Sink stunk and sunk.

    Now, get rid of Boehner, McConnell and the democRats if you really want change.

  16. Alfred Neuman

    March 12, 2014
    10:05 p.m.

    Florida’s 13th district was moderate Republican 20 years ago. It has been trending Democrat recently along with the transplanted Yankee majority in St Pete, and it is now a swing district.
    Reverse the scenario. There is an unpopular Republican President Whitebread in office and a Democrat wins a special congressional election in a swing district. Everyone who follows politics knows tomorrow’s lead story is “President Whitebread suffered a humiliating defeat in an election where many said his party was favored to win.”

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