We all know that if Democrat Alex Sink had defeated David Jolly in FL-13's special Congressional election tonight, the morning news shows would have been all over the story, crowing that her victory represented a convincing verdict in favor of Obamacare.
Well, that didn't happen. David Jolly won, despite being badly outspent and forced to survive a bruising January primary. He also had to deal with running against Sink, a former Sunshine State gubernatorial candidate with far greater name recognition, and a libertarian candidate who siphoned off almost 5 percent of the vote. Though the Associated Press has a fairly balanced and lengthy story on the outcome, it somehow wasn't important enough to be carried as one of its Top 10 U.S. stories at 10:13 PM tonight. One story which did make the "Top 10" cut was (not kidding) about "Oregon owners of a 22-pound housecat that trapped them in their bedroom after attacking their baby." The AP story itself also didn't present the result as quite the referendum on Obamacare the left was predicting when they thought their candidate would prevail.
David Weigel at Slate described the stakes in a lengthy report Sunday evening (bolds are mine):
Obamacare’s Ground Zero
Florida’s 13th congressional district may be where Democrats learn to live or die with the Affordable Care Act.
So it is, every day of this campaign—Republicans reminding voters how much they hate the health care law, Sink reminding them of how much they like, want, and need the Great Society. Florida’s 13th is bluer than the rest of Florida, and much bluer than the states—Arkansas, Louisiana, North Carolina—that will decide control of the Senate. But it’s grayer than any of those states, too. Nearly 1-in-4 FL-13 residents is over 65. The electorate, which started returning absentee ballots weeks ago, is even older. In 2010, the senior vote broke for the GOP by 21 points. In 2012, it fell back to a 12-point gap. Right there—that was the difference between a narrow Republican loss and a historic Republican victory. If Obamacare could break Sink, it could break anyone. If she can defend the law, Democrats in tougher races will start to believe they can, too.
... Alex Sink did not ask to be Obamacare’s representative in Florida. It just happened a few months ago, after Republican Rep. Bill Young passed away. He’d spent 53 of his 82 years in politics, most of them representing what became Florida’s 13th district, which he shaped and built with federal money. In 2011, the state shrunk the district to fit most of Pinellas County, a peninsula resting between the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay. Republicans watched the county go for George W. Bush, then for Barack Obama, then for Barack Obama again. They watched it vote for Alex Sink, in 2010, when she ran for governor.
... “It was surprising to us, a month ago, when a couple of the groups polled this race a month or so ago and saw it deadlocked,” said (American Crossroads spokesman Jonathan) Collegio. “It may demonstrate the severity with which the Obamacare law has the potential of defeating Dems this cycle.”
... A drive through the district, which covers all but the most urban parts of Pinellas, doubles as a tour of an Obamacare panic zone.
... You can find the people whose plans were canceled last year, right when this special election started, because they didn’t gibe with the law’s new requirements.
... The (Democratic) candidates who endure will learn how to handle themselves when Americans for Prosperity or the Chamber of Commerce locate the people—and there are plenty of them—willing to go on camera to describe how their care was ruined by Obamacare.
Alex Sink wasn't one of them tonight.
To its credit, Slate is at least being consistent. Its coverage tonight is headlined "Republican David Jolly wins Florida Special Election in Referendum on Obamacare."
Now let's see how the networks cover Jolly's win – and Sink's loss — Wednesday morning. Based on the AP's apparent move towards de-emphasis, the smart money is on, "not much."
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.