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March 13, 2014 10:13 AM The FL-13 Spin Continues

By Ed Kilgore

We’re into Day Two of the FL-13 spin wars, and the analysis isn’t getting much better (with the exception of Sean Trende’s “much ado about nothing” take, and a “curb your enthusiasm” column from Karl Rove). Republicans appeared divided between those who attribute David Jolly’s 3400-plus victory to a massive national repudiation of the Affordable Care Act, and those who attribute it to a massive national repudiation of Obama himself. Many Democrats are treating the outcome as just a continuation of the late Bill Young’s victories. And MSM is all over the place, though some reporters (viz. Politico’s Sherman and Everett) seem to think the election was retroactively “about” Obamacare if Democrats can’t figure out a common line on how to counter-spin it.

Meanwhile, most accounts give the natural falloff in Democratic turnout in midterms, and especially in midterm-cycle special elections, at most a “to be sure” graph before returning to the “Obamacare referendum” hypothesis. One popular approach is to mention the turnout issue but then attribute lower Democratic turnout to “discouragement” over Obamacare or disappointment with Obama, not with the kind of eternal disparities I’ve been writing about. Dubious analysis wasn’t limited to those advancing that hypothesis, though. Dana Milbank did an entire column attacking the Republican spin on FL-13 without so much as even mentioning turnout patterns.

In the end, what may actually result from these spin wars is a renewed GOP determination to rant about Obamacare and the tyrant Obama and resist any temptation to develop an economic message, much less a positive policy agenda. This may or may not eventually hurt some Republican candidates this November, but if it doesn’t, it could have a large and baleful influence on Republican thinking going into 2016, when a presidential electorate will show up and probably once again win for the Democratic candidate a lot of districts like FL-13.

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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