Pollsters Schoen, Sabato: Post-Florida, GOP Likely to Take Over Senate

Wednesday, 12 Mar 2014 11:24 AM

By David A. Patten

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Tuesday's stunning defeat of Alex Sink, one of the biggest Democratic names in Florida politics, at the hands of first-time candidate David Jolly in a special election indicates that Democrats will face a wave election in November and likely lose the U.S. Senate, several leading pollsters told Newsmax.

Jolly defeated Sink 48.5 percent to 46.7 percent in the 13th Congressional District election that filled the seat of the late Florida GOP congressman Bill Young. Libertarian Lucas Overby grabbed 4.8 percent.

Jolly's upset win was even more significant considering that Overby probably took votes from him disproportionately, pundits say. On Wednesday, Republicans touted what they called a harbinger for November while anxious Democrats tried to pooh-pooh the results.

But neither side could deny the facts: A candidate that many on both sides had described as problematical defeated a leading Sunshine State Democrat in a crucial district.

House Speaker John Boehner called the victory a "big win" and said Obamacare will become more toxic to voters in coming years.

"We had a big win last night in Florida, and I would attribute the win to the fact that our candidate was focused on the issues that were most important to the people in [Florida's 13th Congressional District] — and that's the economy and jobs," Boehner said. "The president's delayed this, delayed that, delayed this, and at some point the American people are going to have to understand, here's what else is coming at you."

House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy said Democrats cannot "spin away" the results.

"There was a libertarian on the ballot; they had their ideal candidate who ran for governor; this is a seat the president carried both times," McCarthy said.

Urgent: Do You Approve Or Disapprove of President Obama's Job Performance? Vote Now in Urgent Poll

Several leading pollsters contacted by Newsmax agreed.

"This election represents a repudiation of the Democrats and Obama," Democratic pollster and Fox News analyst Schoen told Newsmax in an exclusive interview, adding that the result means the Senate "is now probably better than 50-50 to go Republican, and that the Democrats are in a position that is increasingly becoming weaker and weaker as the days go by."

 Larry J. Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, told Newsmax that Democrats "are deeply disappointed by this loss, and should be."

Early polls had showed Sink leading Jolly by 7 to 9 points, although more recent polls indicated the race was much closer. Historically, pollsters have had difficulty predicting the outcome of special elections.

There were a host of reasons why Sink was thought to have the advantage. When she ran for Florida governor in 2010, she not only won 2.5 million votes statewide, but carried the 13th district. Also, President Obama had carried the district in 2008 and 2012.

Democrats had been planning for years to grab the St. Petersburg-area district as soon as the popular Young retired. And unlike Jolly, Sink had no primary competition to fight through. Also, it is believed that she outspent her Republican opponent by well over $1 million.

There had been repeated sniping in recent weeks from GOP insiders that Jolly had run a mediocre campaign. NBC's chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd stated on his MSNBC show "The Daily Rundown" on Tuesday morning that Jolly's campaign performance had been "C-plus at best."

Yet despite these problems, and the likelihood that Libertarian Overby siphoned votes from Jolly, Sink still went down to defeat.

Said Sabato to Newsmax: "The fact that Jolly could win in these circumstances means the hill that Democrats must climb to a majority in November now resembles Mount Everest. Republicans believe anti-Obamacare sentiment and TV ads saved Jolly. The pattern is set for the fall in lots of competitive districts."

Schoen said Democrats may have to re-evaluate their assumption they can survive politically by maintaining that while the Affordable Care Act has flaws, it can be fixed. That message leaves them vulnerable to ads charging that they still support Obamacare.

The Democratic pollster and Fox News contributor also predicted that "Obamacare will be a millstone around every Democrat's neck" in November, and said "rhetorical games and niceties will not solve the problem." He also expects Democrats will be much more apt to criticize Obama's policies on the campaign trail.

"Right now, if you said to me, 'will the Senate be going to go Republican?' I would say yes," said Schoen. "Tuesday morning, I would have said probably it's a 50-50 proposition.

"Now I'd say we are looking at the prospect of a tide election, where even less well known, less popular Republicans could win seats that are now distinctly unlikely," he said.

"Morning Joe" host Joe Scarborough predicted a rout of the Democrats in the November midterms similar to what happened in 2010, when the tea party movement emerged to shift the landscape of American politics.

"History shows Obamacare sunk Democrats in 2010," Scarborough said on his MSNBC show. "I think we may have something historic here happening, where you have one act actually causing grave damage to a political party two midterms in a row.

"I personally believe Alex Sink's consultants that had her stand in front of the camera and said 'fix the Affordable Care Act,' I think that's a horrible mistake. You don't fight on enemy terrain.

"She tried to fight on enemy terrain, defending this act that no Democrat has tried to defend over the last four years. They just don't do it, because you can't do it on the campaign trail, unless you like losing."

Urgent: Do You Approve Or Disapprove of President Obama's Job Performance? Vote Now in Urgent Poll

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