Florida Special Election Seen as National Bellwether

Image: Florida Special Election Seen as National Bellwether Alex Sink, left, and David Jolly

Tuesday, 11 Mar 2014 09:44 AM

By Drew MacKenzie

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The special congressional election for a Florida seat on Tuesday is being seen as a bellwether race for the midterm face-off between Democrats and Republicans in November.

The death of longtime GOP incumbent Rep. Bill Young last year at 82 has led to the first real election test of 2014 with Democrat Alex Sink battling it out with Republican David Jolly and Libertarian candidate Lucas Overby in a close and closely watched race, according to The Hill.

The winning party of the Tampa-area's 13th District will have bragging rights going into the midterm elections and will expect the result to be a harbinger of voter feelings on the national front.

"It is really clear that the national parties are both searching for a message, and what sticks in a swing district in a swing state," Susan McManus, a political science professor at the University of South Florida, told The Washington Times. "It has been nonstop negativity to the point that some have described it as 'noxious.'"

The Democrats have more to lose than the GOP, even though it's been more than 60 years since they won the seat in Pinellas County, along the Interstate 4 corridor, which is expected to play a central role in the midterms and in the 2016 presidential race.

Democrats are facing a 17-seat deficit in the House and are desperate to show they can compete in one of the few marginal races in the country while at the same time make a point that Obamacare, Benghazi, the National Security Agency spying scandal, and Internal Revenue Service tea party-targeting uproar have not hurt them as much as the GOP would like to believe.

Should they lose, the Democrats are likely to downplay the defeat as a special election vote that usually tends to favor the GOP from the start, The Hill reported.

The Republicans view the race as a litmus test of whether their constant hammering of Obamacare is paying dividends, and will indicate whether they will retain the House, as expected in November, but more importantly whether they have a chance of winning the six seats to take control of the Senate, according to the Times.

Considering that the seat plays such an important part in gauging the national temperature, it's not surprising that the election has led to a series of negative ads from both sides.

"Three hundred thousand Floridians will lose their coverage because of Obamacare," says an attack ad paid for by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. "Alex Sink supported it, and she still does."

However, on Monday, Public Policy Polling showed that Sink had a slight edge over Jolly, 48 percent to 45 percent, while Overby trailed in third place with just 6 percent.

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel of New York told The Hill that a victory for Sink in an expected race favoring a heavy GOP turnout would clearly indicate that Democrats have a chance in even tougher races later this year.

"If Sink is able to overcome the double-digit Republican advantage, it will show that Republicans' out-of-touch agenda, obsessive focus on repealing the Affordable Care Act, and insistence on stacking the deck for special interests at the expense of the middle class is toxic, even in a district that is far more Republican than nearly any other district that will be up for grabs in the fall."

Jolly agreed that the race is probably a dress rehearsal for the national stage, but said the  district tends to trend Democratic.

"That makes it even more important … for the national party on the Republican side going into November," he said. "We know if we hold this seat … that means the Republicans not only hold the House in November, but I think it means a very good year for us in the Senate, as well."

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