Yes, it’s disappointing that Alex Sink lost in the special election for the late Bill Young’s seat in Congress yesterday, but I don’t think it’s either the great victory the Republicans think it is or the end of the world for Obamacare and harbinger of things to come that some fretful Democrats are sure it is.
First, the district has been in GOP hands for generations. The fact that President Obama won it by one point in the last election was probably more a sign of people showing up at the polls for a general election than anything else. The race yesterday was the only thing on the ballot, and turnout for those races is notoriously low. Even so, Ms. Sink lost by one point, 47% to 48%. Given that she was up against everyone from the Koch Brothers, Karl Rove, and Bob Barker, it’s impressive she got that close.
The Republicans tried to make this election a referendum on Obamacare; that by campaigning and winning on it here they can carry it to the national election this fall or in 2016. Yeah, no, I don’t think so. What may marginally work in Pinellas County, Florida, doesn’t mean it will sell everywhere else; it could crater in places where the numbers of uninsured people are higher. But they’ll manage to grasp at the straw because they haven’t got a heck of a lot else going for them.
Not only that, the Republicans are far better at turning out their base for an election to vote against someone than the Democrats have ever been. They can go from zero to Outrage faster than a nitro-burning funny car at a drag strip.
The real casualty in the race is probably the career of Alex Sink who lost a close race for governor to Rick Scott in 2010. Coming back from oblivion and two losses in a row is not a talent cultivated by Democrats.