Why Florida's 13th Congressional District Special Election Really Does Matter

Most special elections for a single seat in the 435-seat House of Representatives are overhyped. Not so Tuesday’s vote to fill the vacancy in Florida-13 – a tossup district in the swingiest region of the nation’s biggest battleground state.

Both national parties have been closely involved in the race, which is neck-and-neck, and stand to learn lessons from the outcome.   

Obamacare is effectively on the ballot. And if Democrat Alex Sink wins, her message – that the Affordable Care Act is worth defending but needs to be fixed – could show Democrats that Obamacare (and by extension,President Obama) isn’t necessarily a dead-weight anchor around their necks in the November midterms. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who has also made the “defend it but fix it” argument about the ACA, could apply the same lesson if she runs for president in 2016.

For Republicans, a victory by nominee David Jolly would hold the seat for the GOP and show the party that its march to a bigger House majority and possible takeover of the Senate is on track. But if Mr. Jolly loses his bid to replace his long-serving former boss, the late Rep. Bill Young, who died in October, that could force Republicans to retool their message for the fall.

Even if Jolly ekes out a win, “Republicans are learning that they have to get beyond their slam-Obamacare-all-the-time strategy,” says Ford O’Connell, chairman of the CivicForumPAC. “They have to convince voters they have a plan.”

In fact, a victory by Jolly could lessen the urgency around fashioning a proactive message. So if he loses, the silver lining could be that it forces the party to develop a positive agenda, which boosts the GOP cause in November.

Read more from Linda Feldmann at The Christian Science Monitor

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Analysis & Political Strategy