In the first major test of voter attitudes in 2014, Republican David Jolly won a closely watched special election for the U.S. House in Florida Tuesday, handing his party a narrow victory in a battleground district where Republicans and Democrats spent millions of dollars fine-tuning their messages on national issues ahead of the fall midterm elections.
Jolly’s win in a Gulf Coast district just west of Tampa illustrated the political toxicity of the law known as Obamacare. Jolly favored repealing and replacing the law, which was a central focus of the campaign, while his Democratic opponent did not. The law’s botched rollout has heightened Democrats’ anxiety six months before the midterm elections. The Florida result is likely to raise their concerns.
With Jolly holding the seat for Republicans, Democrats must pick up 17 seats to win back the House majority in the fall, a task widely viewed as extremely difficult given historical trends, President Obama’s political woes and the limited pool of competitive seats up for grabs. Jolly will have to defend his seat in the fall.
As expected, the margin was close Tuesday. Jolly outpaced Democrat Alex Sink by about 3,400 votes out of 183,000. The Associated Press called the race for Jolly less than an hour after polls closed.