Political handicapper Stuart Rothenberg called it “The Race Democrats Can’t Afford to Lose.” They just lost it.
Florida’s 13th congressional district came open last October when Bill Young (R) died of cancer of the blood. A special election was called for March to fill the vacancy.
Republicans nominated David Jolly, a lobbyist with an acrimonious divorce on his record, a so-called “child bride,” a fatal auto accident in his past, and charges that he wanted to destroy Social Security dangling over his head. On Tuesday, he won the district 48.5% to 46.6%, with the Libertarian candidate siphoning off almost 5% of the vote.
Jolly beat out the Democrats’ hand-picked candidate Alex Sink, the aptly-named former gubernatorial candidate who lost by only 1% in 2010. Sink and outside groups outspent Jolly by a margin that the Conservative Intelligence Briefing pegs at “something like $1.5 million.”
FL-13 is, or was, a Democrat-leaning district in Pinellas County. It was carried by President Barack Obama twice and was only held in the R column because Young was the longest-serving Republican member of the House of Representatives.
In early January, Rothenberg predicted that if the Democrats lost the district after contesting it so vigorously, it would be a sign that Obama “could constitute an albatross around the neck of his party’s nominees in November.”
Democratic National Committee chair and Florida congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz tried to spin the results. She argued that “the GOP underperformed tonight,” but most serious political analysts think that’s extremely wishful thinking.
Slate reporter and friend David Weigel wrote, “If you don’t think Ds have a problem when they get 46% in a 51% Obama seat, please whistle quietly. You’re disturbing the graveyard.”