The Media Gets It Wrong: Obamacare Didn’t Cost Alex Sink the Florida Special Election

The media are parroting the Republican belief that Obamacare is the reason why Democrat Alex Sink lost a special House election in Florida last night, but actual polling of voters reveals that Sink’s position on the ACA was popular. She lost because the district is heavily Republican.

The conservative National Journal drew the conclusion that the result of the special election is the beginning of a Republican wave, “Tuesday night’s special election in Florida should be a serious scare for Democrats who worry that Obamacare will be a major burden for their party in 2014. Despite recruiting favored candidate Alex Sink, outspending Republicans, and utilizing turnout tools to help motivate reliable voters, Democrats still lost to Republican lobbyist David Jolly—and it wasn’t particularly close.”

The Los Angeles Times also blamed the ACA, Republicans scored a significant victory in a special congressional election Tuesday, holding on to a seat in a swing district in Florida that Democrats had high hopes of capturing after a campaign that focused heavily on President Obama’s healthcare law.

The Hill also parroted the Republican logic, “Republican David Jolly defeated Democrat Alex Sink in the special election to fill Florida’s 13th District on Tuesday night, delivering a stinging blow to Democrats that underscores their vulnerability to ObamaCare attacks.

The problem for the media is that a poll of the district’s voters has found that they were wrong.

According to polling firm GarinHartYoung, Republican David Jolley’s hardline repeal Obamacare position hurt him with Independent voters:

From the very start of this election, the biggest challenge facing Alex Sink in the FL-13 special election was the significant party registration advantage for the

Republicans among likely voters. The samples for our polls always projected an electorate that would be 11 points more Republican than Democratic – a difficult margin for any candidate to overcome.

Despite the sizeable edge for Republicans, Alex Sink was able to run a remarkably close race in the special election. Our polling, which showed the trial heat virtually even over the course of several weeks, indicated that the debate over the Affordable Care Act helped Sink more than it hurt her, particularly in creating a lead among Independent voters that almost negated the entirety of the Republicans’ superior numbers in the partisan turnout.

Two factors helped Sink level the playing field in the Affordable Care Act debate.

First, David Jolly’s advocacy of repealing the Affordable Care Act put him deeply at odds with Independent voters, who have clear concerns about Obamacare but who do not want to repeal it. By 57% to 31%, Independents preferred a Democrat who supports fixing and improving Obamacare over a Republican who supports repealing it.

Second, Sink was helped by her decision to play offense, and not just defense, in the Affordable Care Act debate.

David Jolly and his surrogates at the NRCC and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce spent a huge amount of money attacking Alex Sink for her support of Obamacare. The net impact of these ads was negligible because voters were just as concerned, if not more so, by Jolly’s position on the issue, particularly with regard to the consequences of repealing Obamacare.

The media looked at a Democrat losing by two points in a district where Republicans have a built in 11 point advantage, and concluded that this was a devastating loss for Obamacare. The only way that anyone could reach such a conclusion is if they didn’t bother to look at the numbers, and instead repeated the Republican spin. A majority of voters in the district (50%-48%) said that Jolley’s hard line repeal position caused them to have serious doubts about him.

David Jolley won even though his position on Obamacare was unpopular with voters.

The message for Democrats is that they need to do a better job with voter outreach in the district. DCCC Chairman Rep. Steve Israel is already encouraging Sink to run against Jolley again in November. Jolley only won the seat for the duration of the late Bill Young’s term. He will have to run for reelection this fall. Democrats suspect that the high profile Charlie Crist/Rick Scott gubernatorial contest will bring their voters out to the polls.

The reason lesson in FL-13 is that Republicans are gambling on the wrong strategy of running against Obamacare. The GOP can still only win elections in places where they have a clear registration advantage. As long as the electorate stays white and old, Republicans can win. If Florida Democrats turn out to vote this November, Rick Scott will be defeated, and Alex Sink will be elected to the House.

Analysis of the Florida special election has been bungled so badly because many lazy media outlet would prefer to pass off Republican talking points as fact than do their own work. The media are absolutely wrong about why Alex Sink lost, but this is for the course for corporate media that wear their Republican bias on their sleeves.

27 Replies to “The Media Gets It Wrong: Obamacare Didn’t Cost Alex Sink the Florida Special Election”

  1. If I am not mistaken, that district is basically the St. Petersburg area, a magnet for rich old white sauerheinis. Me,I’m not near St. Petersburg, and, though white and old, am neither rich nor especially sauer, and the only time I don’t vote for a Democrat is when the candidate is a patent ringer.

  2. ObamaCare has never been and never will be popular with republicans. To both the uninsured and insured Americans, ObamaCare has made it popular to have healthcare insurance at affordable rates.

  3. Why is that each time Democrats lose a race, they then say, “Well, this is what we should have done better.”? The Democrats too often are the Johnny-come-lately crowd. Steve Israel is not much better than Wasserman-Schultz. If you lose, it’s because you lacked the strategy to win.

  4. PBrown…You on sooo right,if we don’t get out & vote this mid-term we are finished and this will become a third world.PPL.please vote mid-term,tell your mother,father,sister,brother,friend,cousin,nephew and everybody to vote mid-term because as JFK quoted “Ask not what your country can do for you,Ask what YOU,can do for your Country” because we are in a state of emergency. please vote! vote the Rethugs out!!!!

  5. I vote if its nothing more than who is running for dogcatcher. This election I am taking people with me.

  6. It’s also pretty damned popular with parents and young adults age 18 to 26 who can stay on their parents’ health care until they find their own. That’s a whole lot of popular, dumb ass.

  7. Doris, I agree. Bring all your family, relatives, friends and even your enemies (smile). All this hoopla on ObamaCare is asinine. The last 5 years is enough to motivate everybody to runnnnnnnnnn to the polls.

  8. The 2012 elections proved that the healthcare reform act wasn’t a liability, with President Obama winning 332 electoral votes, including Florida. Turn out is very important, and I will be doing my part to inform my community of the importance of voting. As a minority and a young adult, I will be seeking those similar to myself that have never voted. GOTV 2014

  9. If you look at the cross tabs of the latest poll while its true the majority does not like it when you dig deeper you would find 17% does not like it because it was not single payer. So in essence more than 53% are in favor of reform. But then again you being a bagger cant read beyond the headlines

  10. Oh, this is rich. You guys are actually accusing someone else of getting it wrong. I remember how confident you folks were that Sink was going to win. Too funny.

  11. “The media are parroting the Republican belief that Obamacare is the reason why Democrat Alex Sink lost a special House election…”

    Republicans don’t believe that at all. They know Sink didn’t have a chance in that District. They’re not THAT stupid. They’re just going to keep SAYING it because the media will parrot it and they know that their base needs to hear it at least 40 times a day or the old farts will shrivel up and die.

  12. FL-13 is chock full of blue-haired teabags!
    I was shocked that Alex Sink got 47% of the vote!! SHOCKED!!!!
    The last Dem to run in FL-13 was clobbered by 21 points!!!!

  13. More people want the ACA then those who don’t and if people don’t show up and vote, this is what you get. All this gerrymandering isn’t right either.

  14. The demographics of the 13th show it’s the gulf side of Florida around Sarasota, a big retirement area, mostly white & highly republican.

    I once had a boyfriend who had grandparents who retired & lived in this area. They lived modestly in a retirement trailer park w/ like people (very few young people) who frequented the Golden Coral & other all you can eat restaurant were typically men who were retired blue collar workers, WW2 Vets & women who were mostly homemakers. Very conservative people.

    Mostly crotchety old people who were highly critical about everything & complained about EVERYTHING as they had nothing better to do. They feared change, were mostly concerned about the present & figured they worked hard all there lives & wanted to make sure they “got theirs.”

    This district can hardly be used as a model to predict voting patterns for either Dems or GOP. It’s clear the Florida Voter Suppression Machine is in full swing, The Dems must vote & the ACA is not such a prob…

  15. Tampa Bay Activist Democrats, at a minimum, know my name. The above analysis of the race gets it right at most points. What isn’t mentioned is the Democrat’s reliance on the DCCC and Emily’s List, instead of local activists. Did we need to move Alex into a district, and a race she didn’t really want to run in (no one wants to go from potential governor of the fourth-most populous state (potential POTUS, potential VP) to freshman, minority member of a body of 435), Time and again, we have seen true grass-roots campaigns achieve great dollar-to-vote ratio, which is never equaled by other outside contributors. All of the “expert” DCCC and FDP professional should be required to attend DFA and Wellstone annually.

    We lost this race because we chose to run a candidate of recognition, instead of a candidate of conscience. To win special elections and down ballot elections, we need to have vocal Progressives, willing to do true policy battle on the campaign trail.

  16. In more ways she won. In such a heavily republican district she came very close. And I couldn’t agree with Ed Schultz more that id she had embraced and sold Obamacare instead of coming out on a platform of fixing a flawed program, she couldn’t have lost worse and who knows, might have won. All democrats need to get behind Obamacare and not let the right dictate perceptions.

  17. You’re wrong again. Even though Republican congressman Bill Young was elected 20 times, this district has become bluer and bluer over the last 20 years, with Democrats beating Republicans in presidential elections. Young was a fixture, and people liked him – so he continued to win. Jolly won because of Obamacare alone, as he (Jolly) wasn’t the a very good candidate. Divorced and 41, running around with a 26 year old, wearing pinstripe suits, disliked by a lot of his own party. Add to that a libertarian that stole 5% of the vote. This was a DISASTER for Democrats. REPORT THE TRUTH, PLEASE!

  18. Clearly the so called “liberal media” are being good little puppets to their CORPORATE MASTERS.Their marching orders are to make sure the rethugs become masters of their universe in order to continue to destroy this country. The dem’s need to stop whining and grow a backbone.

  19. Sink wanted to cut SS , Medicare , do simpson-bowles

    she ran on austerity , she only got 30% tyrnout in her own district

    austerity doesn’t excite the base

  20. Wow, just WOW. The uninsured clearly want little to do with obamacare. This has been a complete debacle since it’s inception. On a side note, I make less than 40k a year. I don’t feel its right for someone making a million a year to pay anything for me. Some European countries have raised the tax on the wealthy above 80 percent. That’s just crazy. 80¢ of every dollar taken from you….It’s plain ludicrous!

  21. So you want to pay for the roads you use all by yourself? This is why you will never understand what being an American is. Its every person doing their share, not one person paying for another.

    The tax rate on the very rich used to be 91%. They were successul, the US was successful and the coutnry started downhill when the great traitor reagan dropped those rates. He dropped tax rates on everyone but took aweay the deductions the middle class and poor used.

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