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March 11, 2014 9:32 AM Get Ready For Some Over-interpretation!

By Ed Kilgore

There’s a special election today in the 13th congressional district of Florida to replace the late Republican congressman Bill Young. Based on partisan tracking of absentee ballot request (absentees may represent over half the vote), where Republicans have a narrow advantage, it’s likely to be a very close outcome. But the candidates—Republican David Jolly, a former Young staffer and lobbyist, and Democrat Alex Sink, former state CFO and Democratic gubernatorial nominee—have been overshadowed by the heavy air war put on both the parties and their allies, mostly about health care (with Republicans blaming Sink for Obamacare, and Democrats accusing Jolly of wanting to mess up Medicare).

You’d figure Sink would have an advantage, since she carried this Pinellas County district in her unsuccessful race against Rick Scott in 2010. But it’s a special election, which isn’t the best turnout environment for Democrats.

The one thing for sure is that the results will be massively over-hyped by whoever wins and massively over-interpreted by the MSM.

Emory University’s Alan Abramowitz has studied the relationship between special and regular congressional elections and concluded there’s really not one, so the predictive value of tonight’s results for November may be quite low. But that won’t keep people from making unwarranted predictions.

Sure, the contest will be of considerable value to those running special election campaigns in the future, and may have some bearing on how absentee ballot drives are conducted going into November. Beyond that, don’t believe the hype.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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