Why David Jolly’s Florida win should be a warning to Democrats in 2014 and beyond

Tuesday was a dark day for the Democrats.

In the midst of crumbling foreign policy endeavors in Ukraine, Syria and Iran and an ever-growing backlash over President Obama’s unpopular health care policy, the Democrats lost Florida’s 13th Congressional district in an upset win for first-time candidate David Jolly. Jolly beat Alex Sink narrowly with a 48.5 percent to 46.6 percent advantage.

The special election to replace GOP representative Bill Young who passed away late last year should’ve gone to Democrat Alex Sink.

Sink, formerly the state’s Chief Financial Officer, was the Democratic gubernatorial nominee in 2010, losing to now-Gov. Rick Scott. She had far more visibility than Jolly. She carried the 13th district in her run for governor. And President Obama carried the district in both 2008 and 2012.

Both Democrats and the GOP plowed millions of dollars into the swing district race in hopes of an election year boost. And the GOP is sure to get the boost they were after from this race. The repercussions extend far beyond the borders of the 13th district. ;

Indeed, the special election served as the first test of President Obama’s health care overhaul ahead of November’s midterm elections.

Local issues took a backseat to the health care law as both national parties and outside groups flooded the swing-voting district with ads, phone calls and mailings about “ObamaCare.” Democrats and Republicans used the race to audition national strategies.

It’s clear that the Democrats national strategy needs some reworking – and fast. The results vindicated the GOP strategy, especially when you consider that the Libertarian Lucas Overby grabbed 4.8 percent of the vote, much of which would’ve gone to Jolly thereby increasing the margin of his win over Sink.

Sink was “ultimately brought down because of her unwavering support for ObamaCare, and that should be a loud warning for other Democrats running coast to coast,” National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Greg Walden said in a statement.

House Speaker John Boehner weighed in on the results. “We had a big win last night in Florida, and I would attribute the win to the fact that our candidate was focused on the issues that were most important to the people in [Florida’s 13th Congressional District] — and that’s the economy and jobs,” Boehner said. “The president’s delayed this, delayed that, delayed this, and at some point the American people are going to have to understand, here’s what else is coming at you.”

Sink’s defeat should serve as a warning to Democrats across the nation: running on ObamaCare will not get you a win. To be sure, there is a way to support universal healthcare and parts of the ACA while still showing voters that you understand that this policy, as it stands, is not good for America.

It will be the job of Democrat candidates and strategists to toe this very nuanced line if they have any chance of holding the Senate and avoiding an onslaught in the House like we saw in 2010.

Wednesday’s NBC/WSJ poll had bad news for Obama’s downticket effects this November. Forty-eight percent of voters said they were less likely to back a candidate who supports the administration as compared to 26 percent who say they’re more likely to do so.

With numbers like that, Democrats who make their support for ObamaCare a touchstone of their campaigns, as Alex Sink did, will be facing near certain defeat come next fall.

Douglas E. Schoen has served as a pollster for President Bill Clinton and is currently working with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He has more than 30 years experience as a pollster and political consultant. He is also a Fox News contributor and co-host of “Fox News Insiders” Sundays on Fox News Channel and Mondays at 10:30 am ET on FoxNews.com Live. He is the author of ten books including,“Hopelessly Divided: The New Crisis in American Politics and What it Means for 2012 and Beyond” (Rowman and Littlefield 2012). Follow Doug on Twitter @DouglasESchoen.

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