David Jolly won the Special Election in Florida's 13th District this week and Republicans across the country rejoiced. Many paint it as a victory against Obamacare and the Democrats in Washington, D.C. We are better served, however, to look a bit closer and understand exactly how and why Jolly won.
This district in Florida has been in GOP hands for 50 years, as Democrats were quick to point out as the reason for the Republican victory. Some Democrats claim that, in fact, that the Republican candidate underperformed in this race. Even the Washington Post gives this reasoning three Pinocchio's. The race was close - 48.43% to 46.55% - and conventional wisdom was that it would likely be a Democrat pick-up, as the district had been re-districted and leaned more heavily Democratic.
But how of much a true picture do these results show? For years, Democrats—and analysts–had said that once Young leaves office, it would flip to the other party. That’s because in races when Young was not on the ballot, Democrats consistently were winners.In the same district, President Obama, for instance, beat both Mitt Romney in 2012 and John McCain in 2008. Alex Sink, when she unsuccessfully sought the governorship in 2010, won the congressional district even while losing the state. Sink also won the district when she was elected Florida’s chief financial officer in 2006.The Cook Political Report’s Partisan Voting Index identifies the district as one of the more competitive districts in the nation—Republican plus 1 percent. (The PVI is based on how the district presidential vote compares to the overall national race.) Florida’s 13th congressional district ranked 230 on a list of 435 districts, with 1 being the most Republican and 435 the most Democratic.This is an important victory, to be sure. Here is how he won the votes of Republicans and also the very important votes of Independents, too: he spoke with common sense and from a place of reality. He didn't dwell in the world of "no", but in offering real world solutions, especially when it came to the topic of Obamacare. He spoke about reforms to the law, not just repeal and no alternative. He spoke about private market solutions and purchasing insurance across state lines.
He stayed on offense and didn't allow the traditional attacks against Republicans by Democrats to fester:
Equally important, the Republican side went on offense against the growing roster of Democratic campaign themes. The party has used them to great effect in any number of recent elections, including most recently in the Virginia governor's race. The difference this time is that the GOP had answers.Ms. Sink, for instance, rolled out the GOP-Wants-To-Throw-Granny-Off-The-Cliff line. Democrats beat on Mr. Jolly on seniors' issues, claiming he wanted to privatize Social Security and cut Medicare. Rather than run from that debate, the Republican reassured voters that he supported honoring current benefits for those in, at or remotely near retirement.Yet he also made the case for long-term reforms to entitlement programs—insisting that, yes, Social Security privatization needs to be among the options considered. He pointed out that the only folks who have done serious recent damage to Medicare are Democrats who robbed the program to pay for ObamaCare. The district's large senior-citizen voting population knew this to be true.Democrats also unfurled the "war against women" theme, claiming that Mr. Jolly opposed "equal pay for equal work" for women and abortion rights. He responded that wage discrimination based on gender should be illegal, and in fact already is. He laid out a straightforward pro-life position, highlighting standard exceptions for rape, incest, life of the mother—and didn't waver from it. The Democrats couldn't get much traction.He worked hard and had solutions to offer.
Most importantly, Jolly is a man who comes to Washington with intentions of doing the hard work of legislating with all willing partners. He acknowledged that the time is over for party members to be battling each other. He was sworn-in Thursday by Speaker Boehner.
Receiving a standing ovation and applause from Republicans and Democrats, Jolly said in his initial remarks that he believes "in this institution, the people's house. ... I believe in civility." He stood in the well of the House, surrounded by members of Florida's congressional delegation.Jolly said the fight is for the country, "not a fight against each other."Civility and working with each other. What a concept. It's a winner.