WASHINGTON, March 15, 2015 — This last week, Florida’s 13th Congressional District had a special election to replace the late Congressman C.W. “Bill” Young who died in October of last year.
Some heralded the election as a bellwether to determine how the 2014 Mid-Term elections will go.
Calling Florida 13 a “bellwether” is simply wrong. This district had been held by Republicans for thirty one years. The shape of the district changed due to redistricting, but this was still a GOP district. Bill Young had only represented this district since 2013. He had been in Congress in various Florida districts since 1973.
That district went for Barack Obama in the 2012 election by a slight margin.
It is not a shock that the GOP won this election. However, there are a couple of takeaways for the GOP and there is a lesson they need to learn quickly.
In Florida Alex Sink ran on Obamacare. Anyone who’s followed the saga of Obamacare could tell you that is a bad idea. Republican David Jolly ran against it.
Because of outside funding, Sink went into the campaign with a significant cash advantage. Though Jolly eventually caught up towards the end, he faced most of this campaign on the short end of the money war.
There are lessons to be learned and Republicans need to learn them early.
The most important lesson is that this election is not about Obamacare. It is about jobs. Ronald Reagan summed it up best in 1980 when he said, “A recession is when your neighbor loses his job. A depression is when you lose yours. A recovery is when President Carter loses his job.”
When Republicans won big in 1980 and 1994, they had something. They had a specific, positive plan. The Republicans lack that now and need to come up with something quickly.
The GOP establishment needs to come to conservatives on bended knee. Conservatives are the base of the party and people from Mitch McConnell to John Boehner all the way down have been making war on the base. There are a lot of conservatives who are quite willing to stay home this fall.
In Kentucky, Mitch McConnell is crushing Matt Bevin in the primary. One poll puts him ahead by forty points. He is either tied with or slightly trailing his Democrat opponent for the fall. All Allison Grimes needs to win is for the conservatives in Kentucky to either stay home or go third party.
Finally, the GOP has to work on avoiding the third party vote splits. In Florida 13, there was a third party candidate, but he was not able to siphon off enough votes from David Jolly to allow Alex Sink to win.
Last November, Virginia held its gubernatorial election. Democrat Terry McAuliffe beat Republican Ken Cuccinelli by somewhat over 56,000 votes. The problem for the Republicans was there was also a “Libertarian” on the ballot, Robert Sarvis who took 146,000 votes.
It is likely that most of the votes Savis took would have gone to Cuccinelli. Sarvis was placed on the ballot thanks to the efforts of an Obama backer, millionaire Joe Liemandt, who paid to have professional petition circulators get out and get the signatures needed to put Sarvis on the ballot.
Sarvis effectively cost the Republicans the Governor’s mansion in Virginia. What is good for the left is good for the right. The GOP backers should help some groups like the Green Party get on the ballot in competitive districts and let them siphon some votes away from the Democrats.
After all, all is fair in love, war and politics.
Florida 13 sends a message. The Republicans better understand the message. They can win. They can keep the House and they can even take the Senate this year. But simply running as the Party opposed to Obamacare isn’t going to cut it.
The GOP has to remember Reagan’s words and remember the big picture. They have to go back to the party that raises a banner of bold colors, not just pale pastels.
Until they do, this election is not over and the GOP stands as much a chance of losing this fall as winning.