Republicans have held the Pinellas County-based 13th congressional district since 1971 when the late Rep. Bill Young was first elected to the House. However, with the death of Young creating an open seat, Democrats sensed an opportunity. Due to the changing demographics, President Obama carried this district by four points in 2012. Alex Sink had a good deal of name recognition left over from her 2010 bid for governor and was flush with campaign cash. Meanwhile, Republicans had to start from scratch with a competitive primary.
Despite being outspent 4 to 1 on a campaign level and being embroiled in intra-party friction with the national committees, Republican David Jolly held the seat last night. There is no lack of commentary and analysis attempting to read the electoral tea leaves and what this portends for November. But one factor that has clearly been overlooked is the issue of immigration.
There are obviously many variables that contribute to a victory or loss in a congressional election. In this case, Obamacare was probably the most prominent factor because it consumed the lion’s share of the dialogue on the campaign trail. However, we were told by the supercilious party elders that if we don’t embrace amnesty we will not win in competitive parts of the country. FL-13 has become the quintessential swing district, yet the Republican won, even though he drew a sharp contrast with the Democrat on the issue of immigration.
While Democrat Alex Sink candidly ran on the open borders agenda by disclosing that the motivation behind amnesty is so that we can all keep our housekeepers, Jolly categorically rejected amnesty. He ran an ad proclaiming that he is “in favor stronger borders. Not amnesty.” In a tight race, you don’t waste time or money on ads that don’t have a central issue at stake.
Again, Obamacare was clearly the biggest issue in the campaign. Furthermore, there is no telling how reliable Jolly will be after he is in Congress for a few months. But the notion that we must support amnesty to remain viable is clearly laid to waste by this victory in a Florida swing district.
Politico aptly notes that Jolly did not choose the squishy route in order to win a swing district:
Jolly, meanwhile, spent much of the race casting himself as a solid conservative, hammering home his opposition to Obamacare and tough-on-immigration views. Jolly allies believed that if they could limit Republican defections and take a chunk of independents, they could win.
Consider this: if running as a conservative on the issues, including the issue of immigration, is a pathway to victory in an Obama +4 district, imagine the results in a district Romney carried by 10, 20, or 30 points.
But don’t expect the wizards of smart within the Republican Party establishment to ever consider that the reality of the immigration issue might be in conflict with their conventional wisdom. There is too much money invested in that fallacious premise.