David Jolly Beats Alex Sink In Florida Special Election: Why That's Not The Worst Thing For Democrats

The Democrats just lost the first election of 2014. On Tuesday night, Republican David Jolly eked out a victory over Democrat Alex Sink in a Florida special election, defeating her 48.5 to 46.6 percent. The election was held to fill the seat of the late Rep. Bill Young, and both parties sunk a ton of money into it.

While Jolly’s victory itself isn’t terribly consequential in the short term— he’ll have to run again for the same seat in seven months — it could significantly affect happens in the midterms later this year. Because Jolly ran and won as a staunch anti-Obamacare conservative, many Republican strategists will conclude that this — and not moderation — is the key to winning the Senate and retaining the House of Representatives come November.

"[Jolly's] victory shows that voters are looking for representatives who will fight to end the disaster of Obamacare, to get Washington to spend our money responsibly, and to put power in the hands of families and individuals," RNC Chair Reince Priebus said in a statement.

This is not necessarily the right conclusion to draw. Jolly had a number of advantages going into the race, like the fact that he used to work for the man he was running to replace. It’s a pretty conservative district, and the attitudes of voters in one district can’t be extrapolated to the country as a whole. Furthermore, Jolly won by less than two percent.

Nevertheless, the GOP has been determined since 2012 to find a way to win elections without actually changing any of its policies. Jolly’s success in Florida’s 13th district is a sign — to Republican eyes, at least — that this is possible.

As a result, Republicans running in the midterms may conclude that assuming unabashed far-right positions is the path to victory. As Todd Akin can tell you, that didn’t work out so well last time, so in some sense, Jolly’s victory could inadvertently be a boon to Democrats.