Republicans Are Pretty Sure They Won FL-13 Because of Obamacare

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
March 12 2014 5:11 PM

Republicans Are Pretty Sure They Won FL-13 Because of Obamacare

Democratic pollsters have earned their money today, spinning and "proving" that Alex Sink's ability to lose a district she'd won in the past was not all that bad. The main wellspring of don't-believe-your-eyes-ism is this memo from Alex Sink's pollster, Geoff Garin. In November 2013 he had the pretty easy job of arguing that Terry McAuliffe's narrower-than-expected win was a vindication of Obamacare messaging. This time ...

First, David Jolly’s advocacy of repealing the Affordable Care Act put him deeply at   odds with Independent voters, who have clear concerns about Obamacare but who do not want to repeal it. By 57% to 31%, Independents preferred a Democrat who supports fixing and improving Obamacare over a Republican who supports repealing it.  
Second, Sink was helped by her decision to play offense, and not just defense, in   the Affordable Care Act debate.      
David Jolly and his surrogates at the NRCC and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce   spent a huge amount of money attacking Alex Sink for her support of Obamacare.   The net impact of these ads was negligible because voters were just as concerned,   if not more so, by Jolly’s position on the issue, particularly with regard to the   consequences of repealing Obamacare. 
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OK, but Jolly won. At a late-morning conservative briefing hosted by the Heritage Foundation, a dozen Republican members of Congress were asked whether they saw Jolly's win as proof of the decisive poisonous potency of Obamacare. All of them said yes. Only Michele Bachmann dissented in part, saying Obama himself was an even greater issue.

"I was out with some colleagues last night," said Tennessee Rep. John Duncan," and when I first heard Mr. Jolly had won the election, I said, 'Thank you, Obamacare.'"

The only worry in the room was that Republican leaders would see the Florida race as a reason to drop every other issue. I asked the conservatives whether they still wanted a Benghazi select committee this year; most said yes, though Duncan said Benghazi was not a burning issue in his district.

"If we only talk about Obamacare, we're going to have the same result we had in 2012," warned Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador.

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

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