I should almost apologize for the title: twenty syllables to describe an event is a lot, but this election needs some specifying. Florida's 13th congressional district covers the north shores of the Tampa Bay area, one of the most important swing areas in one of America's most important swing states. This election is a special election because the winner of the 2012 election, Bill Young, died in office. There will be another election for this seat during the general midterm election in November.

Special elections are often fought more fiercely, and more sloppily, than normal elections. Neither parties nor candidates have the time to set upon the best electoral strategy, or even to pick the best candidate. On the other hand, with no other races to compete for resources or attention, special elections are magnets for the money of national parties and the attention of the media. Such it was in Florida, where two candidates, David Jolly, a lobbyist and attorney for Bill Young, and Alex Sink, former Chief Financial Officer of the state of Florida, were hastily called together to compete. After an abbreviated campaign, David Jolly won the election, on March 11th, 2014, by 48.5 to 46.6 percent of the vote. This being a special election, the turnout was half of what it was for the same seat in 2012, with the margin between the candidates being less than 4,000 votes, total.

Almost all of the national media declared this election to be "about" The Affordable Care Act, and a "defeat" for the Democratic Party. Apparently, ballots in Florida are marked not only with the name of the candidate the voter chooses, but include a place for them to write why they are choosing that candidate. Health care is certainly an important issue in the electorate, (and one I do not claim to know much about), and Florida is certainly an important state in electoral politics, but generalizing about the overall mood and desires of the electorate based on a special election is a bit far-fetched, especially when that election was decided by a 2-point plurality. It is especially wrong to consider this a "victory" for the Republicans, because the 2-point margin of victory in this election was much smaller than the 15-point margin in the 2012 general election.

In early 2013, I wrote about a special election in Illinois that it was not very informative about national political trends. The Florida special election, taking place in a swing district instead of in a reliably partisan district, tells us a bit more, but due to the narrow margin and odd circumstances surrounding it, I don't think that too many conclusions can be drawn about what it means for the national electorate.

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