Republicans who want to imagine that they can campaign against Obamacare and win every swing seat that is in the offering in 2014 will try to suggest that GOP nominee David Jolly’s win in Florida’s 13th Congressional District proves their point.
But that’s a stretch.
Jolly did campaign as a critic of the Affordable Care Act. And his Democratic foe, cautiously centrist former Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, did offer a nuanced defense of the reform initiative—along with a more robust argument on behalf of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
But Jolly did not take a Democratic seat.
He kept a Republican seat.
And just barely.
Jolly’s winning percentage of 48.5 in a low-turnout election—where it is generally thought that the voting patterns favor Republicans—was almost ten points below the 2012 number for the Republican he was running to replace, veteran Congressman Bill Young, who passed away last October. It was more than fifteen points below Young’s finish in the Republican wave year of 2010.
And Jolly’s victory did not come cheap.
Jolly’s campaign raised and spent $1.3 million—barely half the total for Sink, whose background in the financial sector and in politics, as a former gubernatorial candidate, gave her some early advantages. As the campaign played out in February and early March, the polls suggested that Sink might secure an upset. Sink had the money advantage, which in a traditional campaign might well have been maintained. But we are now in a new political era when outside groups—with very nearly unlimited resources—can sweep in to fill political voids.
That’s what happend in Florida, where Republican-allied national groups with very deep pockets rushed in to rescue Jolly’s candidacy.
According to an analysis by Center for Public Integrity:
• The National Republican Congressional Committee poured $2.2 million into the district.
• The US Chamber of Commerce came through with $1.2 million.
• The American Action Network, a group with close ties to the national GOP establishment, ponied up $470,000.
• Karl Rove’s American Crossroads project was good for $470,000.
The Florida Republican Party and other Republican-allied and conservative groups pumped hundreds of thousands of additional dollars into the district.