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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Florida 13

Republican David Jolly defeated Democrat Alex Sink in a special election in the 13th congressional district of Florida.  In isolation, special elections do not necessarily portend national trends. But together with the generic ballot, statewide polls, presidential approval ratings, and other data, this result suggests a good year for the GOP.  

The district had voted for Obama.  Democrats had a strong candidate while Republicans had a relatively weak one. Alex Isenstadt reports at Politico:
“Dems should not try to spin this loss,” Paul Begala, a onetime top political aide to former President Bill Clinton, wrote on Twitter. “We have to redouble our efforts for 2014.”
Florida’s 13th District is, in many ways, the archetype of the kind of seat Democrats need to win if they’re serious about erasing their 17-seat House deficit anytime soon. Its electorate is older, overwhelmingly white, and politically moderate — in other words, the kind of people who dominate many of the swing congressional districts across the country.
In fact, the district should have been one of the Democratic Party’s most winnable targets. Of the 37 GOP-held seats that the Cook Political Report ranks as the most vulnerable to Democratic takeover, only 11 are more Democratic-friendly than Florida’s 13th. The district has just a narrow GOP registration edge.
Sean Sullivan reports at The Washington Post:
"The Florida CD-13 special was an important test market and there was unprecedented cooperation among outside groups," said Steven Law, CEO of American Crossroads, a conservative group that spent about $500,000 to help Jolly. "We intend to keep refining these lessons as we prepare for the fall elections."
Crossroads embarked on a coordinated effort in January with American Action Network and YG Network. The three groups combined to spend more than $1 million on the race. But they weren't even the heaviest hitters. The National Republican Congressional Committee spent more than $2 million and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce chipped in more than a $1 million of its own money. Taken together, GOP groups outspent Democratic groups by about $1.25 million.
Most of the Republican money went toward television advertising. Yet total Democratic ad spending still outpaced total GOP ad spending thanks to Democrat Alex Sink's huge cash advantage over Jolly. But the Republican groups spent money smartly, hitting the airwaves with complementary messages and avoiding stepping on each other's toes or doubling up unnecessarily.
The Republican organizations "actually talked to one another and spaced out their buys so there was coverage the whole campaign. Not everyone was up at the same time. "It's a page from our playbook," said one Democrat with an eye on the race, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to provide a candid assessment.