Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Wednesday offered Democrats some unsolicited advice on dealing with the party’s loss in a close House special election race in Florida: Don’t try to spin it.
“Listen, I’ve stood here after losing some special elections. I’ve tried to put lipstick on a pig, and it’s still a pig,” the Speaker told reporters at the Capitol, a day after Republican David Jolly defeated Democrat Alex Sink in a campaign to replace the late Rep. Bill Young (R-Fla.). “You can bet they’ll try to put lipstick on it today, but you all know what the facts are.”
Republicans cheered the win as evidence the unpopularity of ObamaCare would bring down Democrats in the November midterm elections, while Democrats said they put up a strong showing in a seat Young had won easily for decades.
“You cannot spin away the election from last night,” Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said. He noted a libertarian candidate cut into Jolly’s vote, and Democrats had their “ideal” candidate in Sink, a former gubernatorial nominee who was recruited by party leaders.
Boehner said the healthcare law would not become more popular before the fall, and the delays that President Obama has announced have only pushed back bad news for people who are at risk of losing their insurance or facing much higher premiums in the future.
“It’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better,” Boehner said of the law.
At a conservative event on Wednesday hosted by the Heritage Foundation, lawmakers differed on the main reason for Jolly's victory.
"When I first heard that Mr. Jolly won the election, I said, 'Thank you, ObamaCare,'" Rep. John Duncan (R-Tenn.) said.
But Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), a staunch critic of the healthcare law, said it was the president's overall unpopularity that doomed Sink.
"I would say Obama was the central issue," Bachmann said. "Yes, ObamaCare, but I think Obama was the central issue. Because people are so disaffected with the president."
The results rekindled a debate Republicans have had for months on whether the party should stick to a core message of attacking Obama's policies and the unpopular healthcare law or whether they need to offer a more positive and specific alternative for voters ahead of the midterm elections.
Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) said a continued, singular focus on ObamaCare would be "a mistake" in 2014, arguing that the party essentially tried that strategy in 2012 and lost badly.
--This report was updated at 1:28 p.m.