If Obamacare's Toxic, Why Is a Democrat Expected to Take Over a GOP Seat in Florida?

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Jan. 14 2014 10:44 AM

If Obamacare's Toxic, Why Is a Democrat Expected to Take Over a GOP Seat in Florida?

103769117-florida-democratic-gubernatorial-candidate-alex-sink
Alex Sink: the next U.S. representative from Florida?

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The Affordable Care Act's rollout really got underway on Oct. 1, and since then voters have gone to the polls in a nice little sample of elections. New Jersey's Senate seat stayed Democratic; Democrats swept the statewide races in Virginia, but underperformed in House of Delegates races. Two Republican House seats stayed Republican. A Virginia state Senate seat stayed, narrowly, with the Democrats, though a Republican who lost by nine votes will probably ask for a recount. 

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

Republicans have interpreted this as evidence that the Affordable Care Act is, indeed, hurting Democrats. McAuliffe's win was narrow; the state Senate seat had been won handily (57–43) by Obama. But the next federal election is a March special to replace the late Florida Rep. Bill Young, in one of the very few districts that voted for Obama but elected a Republican congressman. Are Republicans confident of winning?

No. They are telling everyone that Democrat Alex Sink is the favorite by leagues. National Journal's Scott Bland:

Democrats and some Republicans say that the 2010 gubernatorial candidate represents something close to an ideal special election candidate. She came with a strong political profile: Two runs for statewide office, including one victory, let her start the congressional race with big name recognition, a tested team of political advisors, and fundraising connections galore. That includes a near-immediate endorsement by EMILY's List, the powerhouse fundraising group for women Democrats, and the big-spending National Association of Realtors' political action committee.
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“You have a superior candidate with Alex Sink, and she is raising a lot of money, she is getting a lot of support. And you have two subpar candidates in Peters and Jolly,” said Mike Fasano, a popular former Republican state senator from nearby Pasco County. “The candidates that should have run did not run, so we’re stuck with Peters and Jolly.”
Tom Slade, a lobbyist and former Florida Republican Party chairman, said: “Alex Sink is going to be hard to beat. She is so well-known. … It’s not going to be an easy race for Republicans to win. I hope I’m wrong.”

The counterspin is that Obamacare really is horrifically unpopular, toxic in a "heaven's waiting room" district like this one, and that hey, maybe the Republicans can escape the primary today, start with zero cash on hand, and still win. But Republicans have been attacking Sink over Obamacare for two months. There's some serious proto-spinning going on here, to deny Democrats any confidence that a win in the Tampa Bay area would mean they can win anywhere else. Fair enough, though Sink's message—that Obama "failed us" but the law should be fixed, not repealed—is the universal Democratic credo.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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