Voters in Florida’s 13th Congressional District — a stretch of beach towns and retirement communities — provide the first 2014 campaign test of whether Democrats can counter GOP attacks on the president’s health care overhaul by accusing Republicans of threatening popular benefit programs for the elderly.
I’ll be live-blogging Election Day in CD 13, providing updates and links throughout the day. Keep checking back on this page for the latest intel, predictions and results.
5:10 p.m. – @daveweigel: Two hours til polls close in #FL13. If Alex Sink loses, Obama has to resign and move into @ThePlumLineGS’s basement.
5:07 p.m. – Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections administrative assistant Terri Gardiner said workers in the office “have gotten a steady stream of calls” from voters wondering when they can vote in that race, or why their precincts were closed. … Gardiner said voters who call get the explanation that this race is not theirs to decide. … “Some of the callers just don’t seem to understand what’s going on,” she said.
5:01 p.m. – Here’s how the CD 13 race is playing in the media.
New York Times, National Parties Watch Closely as Florida Votes in House Race – voters in Pinellas County, one of the nation’s quintessential swing districts, were going to the polls on Tuesday to elect a new member of the House for the first time in more than 40 years… National Public Radio,Florida Election Tests Midterm Messaging – the contest is taking on exaggerated importance as both national parties and their deep-pocketed donors frame it as a proxy for how President Obama and his signature health care legislation will play at the polls in November… Politico, The Jolly-Sink showdown: What to watch – a storm of attacks and counterattacks and endless speculation about its implications for the midterms, voters will cast their ballots in the Florida special congressional election on Tuesday… Los Angeles Times, More than $12 million later, Florida voters deliver verdict – Public polls have shown Democratic candidate Alex Sink clinging to a very small lead over Republican David Jolly… Washington Post, Health care law gets 1st test in Florida election – As Jolly and Sink shook hands around the district Tuesday, steady streams of people filed into retirement communities, churches and libraries to cast ballots…. Fox News, Dems, GOP test fall strategy in Florida House race – the first 2014 campaign test of whether Democrats can counter GOP attacks on the president’s health care overhaul… Wall Street Journal, National Parties Eye Florida Congressional Race– has been hard-fought, with a blitz of ads that left many residents feeling besieged.
4:53 p.m. – Election Day turnout is now at 8.8%; overall turnout is 36.3%.
4:45 p.m. – This website is touting an algorithm it says predicts a victory for Sink.
3:45 p.m. – The League of Conservation Voters is also now laying the ground-work for taking credit for a possible Sink win. “David Jolly ignored climate science every step of the way and defended his Big Oil allies over the people of Florida,” writes Jeff Gohringer. “Every vote counts in a close race like this, and David Jolly’s climate change denial has the potential to cost him votes he couldn’t afford to lose.”
I wonder if these progressive groups see something in the exit polls.
2:32 p.m. – ED turnout so far is 6.9%, putting overall turnout at 33.6%.
2:23 p.m. – House Majority PAC’s Andy Stone has sent out an interesting email this afternoon detailing its efforts in this race. I like Stone a lot, but this reads like an attempt to stake a claim to the credit that will be shared if Sink wins. In the email, Stone says HMP spent a cool $1 million in the race, broken down with $770,000 on TV, $190,000 on mail and $15,000 on digital.
2:15 p.m. – Alex Sink’s Election Night party will be at Hilton St. Petersburg Carillon Park, 950 Lake Carillon Dr., St Petersburg.
1:40 p.m. – First Read (via Taegan Goddard) notes that tonight’s special congressional election can help answer this question: “What’s the more powerful force right now — an individual campaign or the overall political environment?
Sink has a lot of the intangibles on her side. She has more money, a higher name ID (after running for governor in 2010), an opponent whose previous job was a lobbyist (about as despised of a political occupation as you can have), and a third-party candidate (Lucas Overby) who would probably take more votes away from the Republicans. So a Sink win would be a blueprint for survival for skittish Democrats: If you run a superior race, hold most of the intangibles, and take the health-care issue head on, you can survive.
On the flip side, a Sink loss and Jolly win will rattle a lot of Democrats, because it would prove that the environment — including a more GOP-leaning electorate — trumps everything else. If a B-minus candidate running a C+ campaign who happens to be a lobbyist can beat someone who has more of the intangibles on her side, then that is going to scare the Mark Udalls, Jeanne Shaheens, and Jeff Merkleys running for re-election in blue/purple states in November.
1:30 p.m. – The Fix offers its reasons why Alex Sink will win and why David Jolly will win.
1:20 p.m. – Libertarian Lucas Overby will be at Finley’s Irish Pub in Largo for an election results watch party. Details here.
11:16 a.m. – Ladies and gentlemen, your “No shit!” tweet of the day via @SteveBousquet: High hopes for @FlaDems rest on Alex Sink’s shoulders tonight. Win would be huge boost for party and loss would be very demoralizing.
11:10 a.m. – ED turnout so far is 2.6%, putting overall turnout at 29.3%.
11:06 a.m. – The Atlantic’s Molly Ball discusses whether the CD 13 special election foreshadow’s November midterm elections:
“If Sink manages to lose another close election, Democrats could be looking forward to a 2014 as historically bad for them as 2010 was—and you can expect they’ll be scrambling for a new strategy and a new message to ward off that cataclysmic result. If Jolly manages to lose despite the country’s bad case of Obama blues, meanwhile, it could be time for Republicans to freak out, and reconsider their own Obamacare-centric November strategy.”
11:00 a.m. – An interesting note about special elections from David Hawkings: “Whatever the outcome of Tuesday’s tight congressional contest in Tampa Bay, this footnote is assured: The winner will become the 64th person in the current House first sent to the Capitol by a special election. That’s an astonishing 15 percent of the membership.”
10:46 a.m. – Sink’s campaign is still sending out fundraising emails. “With the race this close, we can’t risk having votes not counted because we didn’t have the resources to support our efforts,” reads an email from Sink’s campaign. “As of 10am, we’re still $3,400 short our Voter Protection Fund goal.”
9:06 a.m. – Chuck Todd says Jolly has run a “C+” campaign at best.
8:07 a.m. – The Associated Press’ Gary Fineout asks, “Guess who is missing in the big Congressional showdown in Florida?
Republicans (and yes I know there is a divide between the national and local folks running the Jolly campaign) have made one crucial calculation in the run-up to today.
Keep Rick Scott as far away as possible from the election.
Think about that for a second. Scott is arguably the leading Republican in the state of Florida. He has his people in charge of the Republican Party of Florida.
Furthermore, he was the one who defeated Sink in the 2010 goveror’s race. You would think the last thing that he would want is the resuscitation of her political brand.
Yet it’s abundantly clear that the Jolly camp and his supporters are keeping their distance.
Those who have lent their help to push Jolly include Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and on the eve of election, Rand Paul.
But no Scott.
8:05 a.m. – The stupidest analysis I have read about today’s election is discussed here.
7:34 a.m. – The Washington Post‘s The Fix offers an “everything you need to know” preview of the CD 13 race here.
7:15 a.m. – Mark Halperin doubles-down and says CD 13 does not include Ft. Lauderdale, says it’s “just northwest” of Ft. Lauderdale.
7:00 a.m. – Polls are now open across CD 13.
6:52 a.m. – Mark Halperin said on Morning Joe this morning that Democrats are now acting like they are worried about CD 13. He also, at first, said CD 13 included Ft. Lauderdale, so take his analysis with a grain of salt.
6:43 a.m. – The key stat going into Election Day is not who has voted, but who is left to vote. According to Associated Industries of Florida, there are 12,934 Republican “super voters” (voters who have voted in four out of the last four elections), while Democrats have just 5,290 4-over-4 voters.
6:34 a.m. – Checking the Pinellas Supervisor of Elections website, it looks like Republicans go into Election Day with a 5,049 returned-ballot advantage over Democrats. That’s factoring in mail-in ballots and early voting.
6:17 a.m. – Have you noticed the Google and Twitter ads America Rising is running today? The GOP research firm America Rising is up with both a set of Google search ads in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area and promoting a set of three tweets about Sink across Florida. Here are two examples: here and here.
6:15 a.m. – POLITICO’s Alex Isenstadt offers five things to watch today. 1) Early bird special: We might get an idea of which way the race is going early in the evening. That’s because, as of Sunday night, 117,000 people had already voted by mail – a figure that could surpass the number who head to the pollsTuesday. 2) North or south: As Election Day takes shape, keep a close eye on turnout reports from across the southwestern Florida district. Jolly is banking on heavy turnout from the northern parts of the district. Sink, meanwhile, is hoping for voters in the more southern parts of the district. 3) The spoiler: No one thinks a third candidate on the ballot, Libertarian Lucas Overby, has a shot at winning. But some Republicans are worried that Overby, who has raised a minuscule $30,000, could siphon off crucial votes from Jolly, and they’re determined to make sure he doesn’t. 4) The spin game:Whichever party loses is likely to downplay the result – Democrats by saying the district has long favored Republicans like Young, Republicans by saying they had a poor nominee in Jolly. 5) The recount factor: If the margin separating Sink and Jolly is 0.5 percent or less, according to Florida law, there will be a machine recount of all votes cast.