The White House tried to claim Wednesday that Obamacare did not play a role in Republican David Jolly’s special election victory in Florida on Tuesday.
“Any fair assessment of the role the debate about the Affordable Care Act played reaches the conclusion that, at best, for Republicans it was a draw,” White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters Wednesday. “It was not a negative or positive. It was not the decisive factor.”
Democrats are taking heat over the loss as Democrat Alex Sink outspent Jolly, and had access to a considerably more organized GOTV effort.
The full exchange is available below:
Q: Quick question about the Florida special election.
MR. CARNEY: Mmm hmm.
Q: So this is a district obviously that the president carried twice. It's a race you guys all thought you were going to win as recently as yesterday. Taking a loss like this with a candidate you were very enthusiastic about — Democrats were enthusiastic about and thought was going to win, does this mean you should be bracing for a tough fall?
MR. CARNEY: Well, let me say a couple of things. First of all, this is a seat that was held by Republicans for 58 years — longer than you and I, by a long — by a lot have been alive. And — (laughter) —
Q: Not as long as we'd like.
MR. CARNEY: Not as long as we'd like. (Laughter.) I mean, this was a safe Republican seat for decades, A. B, I am not –
Q: But you thought you were going to win. I mean, you — (inaudible) — confident.
MR. CARNEY: No, we thought it was going to be close. And the fact that it was going to be close I think demonstrates a number of things, including what the winner himself said upon winning, when he was asked whether or not — why he didn't mention the Affordable Care Act, which of course has been the focus of the analysis about, you know, the meaning and impact of this special election.
And he said the national media and the pundits, they'll draw from the race what they want. This was a clearly run race. We know that. I don't take a mandate from this. I think what the national pundits think is they've got some messaging homework to do, maybe, based on this race. This was always a local race for me. I haven't wavered from that from the beginning. So —
Q: Do you agree with that? Do you agree that the Affordable Care Act was not a factor in the Democratic loss in this race — not a major factor — (inaudible)?
MR. CARNEY: Look, let me — let me — let me say a couple things. Tempting as it is, given my background, I am not going to delve too deep into election analysis. But I will note that any fair assessment of the role that the debate about the Affordable Care Act played reaches the conclusion that at best for the Republicans, it was a draw.
And I think that that's evidenced by the fact that the Republican candidate himself didn't even mention it in his victory speech.
Q: But — (cross talk) — on his ads –
Q: Wait, wait, wait, could you explain — (inaudible) —
MR. CARNEY: There's polling data that —
Q: — it was a draw — what do you mean by that — (off mic) —
MR. CARNEY: On the Affordable Care Act, that the effect of the Affordable Care Act, the debate that was, as Mara points out, a part of this election campaign for this special election in Florida, that the views on it, at best, from a Republican point of view, created a draw, that it was not a negative or a positive; it was not the decisive factor for an outcome to a race which, by the way, resulted in a less than 2 percent victory in a special election — again, we're talking about a demographic here — special election, not a November election, so the electorate, I think, as anybody here who understands these things would acknowledge, does not favor Democrats — and that's a starting point — was extremely close in a seat that had been held by Republicans for nearly 60 years.
So look, I — here's another thing I'll say. In 2006, Democrats lost every competitive special election and went on to pick up 31 seats in November. In 2010, when House Democrats would go on to lose 63 seats and control the chamber in the fall, they won every single competitive special election. So —
Q: This is a good sign for — (off mic) — (laughter) —
MR. CARNEY: No, I think it's — I think it's a single race. It's a single race. And it's a race that is — was — had a lot of peculiarities to it because it's a special — as any special does. It's a race where, again, Republicans held the seat for 58 years, where they routinely won that seat by 30 or more points. And last night they won by less than 2 points. So it is what it is.