Rep. C.W. Bill Young held his seat in Congress for 43 years until his death in October prompted the special election for Florida’s 13th Congressional District last Tuesday. Though Young was a Republican, the district has been trending Democratic in recent years, with near equal numbers of registered Republicans (37 percent) and Democrats (35 percent). President Obama won it in 2012, and it’s now considered a swing seat. All of those factors combined to make it a hard-fought race, and a closely watched referendum on the ACA. WSJ:
Mr. Jolly and his GOP supporters made Obamacare a centerpiece of their attacks on Ms. Sink, seeking to wed her to the law and calling for its repeal.She argued that while parts of the law were problematic, it should be preserved and improved. She accused Mr. Jolly of wanting to “take us back” to a time when people were denied coverage due to existing conditions. It was a talking point many Democrats hoped would provide a road map for other candidates.Instead, the Republican position that “Obamacare is going to be an albatross across Democrats’ necks” could gain traction, said Aubrey Jewett, a political-science professor at the University of Central Florida.
Many are taking this as a big sign that Democrats are headed for a rough midterm. We don’t doubt that, but there have been a couple of times in the past when the media has confused a data point for a trend-line pointing directly to the ACA’s demise. Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts was supposed to be a sign that the end was nigh for the ACA, but it kept chugging along. Then Ken Cuccinelli’s surprising showing against Terry McAuliffe was attributed to Obamacare’s unpopularity. Cuccinelli was the anti-ACA candidate but the fact that he lost by so little when funding was stacked towards McAuliffe inspired conservatives to think simply opposing Obamacare was a winning issue. Since then, some polls have shown support for pro-ACA politicians actually climbing.Jolly’s victory in FL-13 is significant. Democrats need to find a more compelling answer to the anti-ACA messaging if they want to weather the coming storm. Nonetheless, there’s far too much uncertainty about this issue, and far too much time before the election, to be making confident predictions about the midterm outcomes from one test case.