In the scattershot, countrywide affair that is a midterm election, political observers are always looking for entrails to read for signs of what November might hold, and each cycle’s handful of special congressional elections inevitably get treated as portentous omens, particularly by the winning side. Sometimes this is even true: In 2010, Republicans won a Senate election in Massachusetts in January and a House election in Hawaii in May, two unlikely victories in extremely hostile territory that in retrospect showed how badly America was about to hand it to the Democrats. (The losing side of a special election, just as inevitably, insists there were race-specific factors at work that will have no bearing on elections elsewhere—and often that, too, is the case.)
So it is with today’s special congressional election, which will determine the next member of Congress from Florida’s 13th District, a little piece of coastline about halfway up the Gulf Coast. A Democratic former statewide elected official, Alex Sink, is running against a Republican former congressional aide and D.C. lobbyist, David Jolly. The election is happening because the congressman who represented this part of Florida for 43 years, Bill Young, died in office last October at the age of 82.
Though Young, a beloved local figure, always won reelection easily—20 times!—this is a swing district that has been trending blue. It last voted for a Republican for president in 2004, and it has a Cook Partisan Voting Index of R+1—the narrowest possible GOP edge. Polling has the race extremely tight, so this one really could go either way.
Today’s election has been a nearly pure test-drive of the two parties’ strategies as they’re shaping up for this year’s national House and Senate battles.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]