WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House on Wednesday rejected Republican arguments that a Democratic congressional candidate lost a special election in Florida due to public displeasure with President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law.
Republicans have tried to connect the loss of Democrat Alex Sink to Republican David Jolly on Tuesday as a sign that Americans are eager to register their opposition to Obamacare in November congressional elections.
Obama’s Affordable Care Act had a rocky rollout in October and problems continue to plague the new system with many Americans complaining their private insurance plans were canceled.
White House spokesman Jay Carney, asked if Obamacare had been on the ballot in the special election, read remarks from Jolly himself, who said he did not see a link.
Jolly, 41, defeated Sink, a former state chief financial officer, by 3,500 votes or a 1.87 percent margin, according to local officials.
Carney said Obamacare appeared to have a neutral impact on the race, saying, “It was not a negative or a positive.”
And he said Democrats took away some comfort because Republicans had overwhelmingly won the same seat in the House of Representatives for decades but that Jolly barely eked out his win.
“This was a safe Republican seat for them,” he said. “Republicans held the seat for 58 years. Last night they won by 2 points. So it is what it is.”
Republicans want to build their majority in the House in November elections and seize control of the U.S. Senate from Democrats. The party that controls the White House typically loses seats in Congress in these mid-term congressional elections.
After Tuesday’s election, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said in a statement that 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.”
Carney, however, noted that the Republican did not mention Obamacare in his victory speech Tuesday. In fact, Jolly admitted his margin was too slim to “take a mandate from this.”
Reporting by Steve Holland and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Andrew Hay nL2N0M91WE