The budget shutdown that wounded the Republican brand last week also inflicted pain on the GOP in Florida: The party lost a seat held for decades by Republicans, and Gov. Rick Scott was hit with a hurdle to his reelection strategy.
The governor has spent the last six months distancing himself from his February decision to embrace taking $51 billion from the federal government to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, and the disastrous enrollment rollout appeared to help Republicans keep the issue from returning in the next legislative session.
That might have been easy if Republican Bill Gunter had won last Tuesday’s House District 36 race. Instead, the Pasco County seat was won by Amanda Murphy, a Democrat and political newcomer with impeccable timing.
The governor stayed away from the race, as polls showed his popularity in the district was painfully low. But, while special elections are rarely bellwethers in Florida, the results suggest that among a significant slice of the electorate — especially independents — support for the Affordable Care Act can be a winning message. That’s a troubling sign for Scott, who remains strongly opposed to Obamacare, though he supports taking the federal money.