Following Tuesday's seemingly upset win by Republican David Jolly in the U.S. House District 13 special election over Democrat Alex Sink, let's consult the tea leaves.
This likely was an upset, since District 13, based on its voter demographics, probably should have gone Democrat years ago. It voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and again in 2012. The late C.W. Bill Young was able to hold the seat for the GOP for years, in large measure because of his decades of seniority and his ability to bring home the bacon for the folks at home. In addition, most opinion polls had Sink in the lead, roughly by the margin by which Jolly won Tuesday. Jolly's win might have been a bit bigger if Libertarian Lucas Overby had not got nearly 5 percent of the vote.
One of the most controversial aspects of the campaign was the barrage of attack ads the Republican and Democrat fired at each other. They probably did little more than alienate voters and depress the turnout. Sink's much bigger campaign finance war chest wasn't enough to carry the day for her. Money is important in politics, and we would not be so naive as to suggest it isn't. Other factors, however, often have an even bigger impact.
Some were quick to ascribe Jolly's win to discontent over the Affordable Care Act. The ACA was a major mistake, but we're not yet ready to predict it will sink the Democrats in November, when the Republican will try to hold onto the District 13 seat in a possible Jolly-Sink II that could prove even more of bare-knuckled brawl.