Personal Liberty Poll
I’m talking about the special election to fill the Congressional seat in Florida’s 13th District. It became available when Bill Young, the Republican who had held it for 42 years, died in October.
If the Republicans held the seat for so long, why were Democrats confidant they could win it? There were several reasons. For one, Barack Obama carried the district in both of his Presidential runs. For another, Alex Sink, the Democratic nominee, had better name recognition than David Jolly, her Republican opponent. She’d won statewide office in 2006 and was the Democratic nominee for Governor in 2010. Although she lost the gubernatorial election to Rick Scott, she carried the district in which she was running for Congress.
Plus, Sink had more money to spend than Jolly — almost three times as much. And she spent most of it attacking him for his previous job as a Washington lobbyist. Jolly had some other personal issues, including a divorce and an auto accident years ago in which he killed someone. So he wasn’t the ideal candidate.
But Jolly had one thing going for him: the public’s anger at Obamacare. And that was enough to sweep him to victory.
How important was this election? Stuart Rothenberg is a longtime Washington observer who has written a column for Roll Call for the past 20 years. I quoted the headline for his piece at the top of today’s column. Here’s how he began that article:
It’s rare in politics that anything other than a presidential contest is viewed as a “must win” — but the special election in Florida’s 13th District falls into that category for Democrats.
A loss in the competitive March 11 contest would almost certainly be regarded by dispassionate observers as a sign that President Barack Obama could constitute an albatross around the neck of his party’s nominees in November.
That’s what happened in Florida’s 13th District Tuesday. Jolly beat Sink by 48.5 percent to 46.7 percent. A Libertarian candidate, Lucas Overby, got 4.8 percent of the vote.
The next day, there was even more bad news for Democrats. The latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll came out, revealing that the President’s approval ratings have hit an all-time low. His job-approval number was a pretty dismal 43 percent percent in January, the last time the survey was taken. Now it’s fallen even further, dropping to 41 percent. A majority of those surveyed, 54 percent, said they disapprove of the job Obama is doing.
Even more worrisome for Democrats running for office this November, the poll revealed that Obama’s disapproval rating from his fellow Democrats has climbed to 20 percent, his highest ever. And the number of respondents who said the country is headed in the wrong direction was 65 percent, according to the survey.
In its article about the poll results, The Wall Street Journal reported: “Americans surveyed in the poll said they were less inclined to support a candidate if the person had been endorsed by Mr. Obama or was a ‘solid supporter’ of his administration.”
The gap is huge. Forty-eight percent said they were less likely to support a candidate identified as “a solid supporter of the Obama Administration,” while just 26 percent said that would make them more likely to support such a candidate. That’s a 22 point difference.
And here’s more bad news for the White House: The President’s personal endorsement of a candidate is becoming the kiss of death. Forty-two percent of those polled said they would be less likely to vote for a candidate Obama endorsed, while only 22 percent said Obama’s endorsement would make them more likely to support such a candidate.
I guess we won’t see Obama doing much campaigning for candidates this fall. It’s no surprise that he stayed far, far away from that “can’t afford to lose” Congressional race in Florida’s 13th District.
Yes, it looks like Republicans have a golden opportunity to make some major gains this November. They should easily maintain control of the House of Representatives. And chances look good for picking up several Senate seats — maybe even enough to gain control there.
We’ll have more to say about specific contests in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, congratulations to the voters in Florida’s 13th District for confirming that there is indeed a darned ugly bird wrapped around the President’s neck.
Until next time, keep some powder dry.