“This was a safe Republican seat for decades,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said after GOP lobbyist David Jolly bested former Florida chief financial officer Alex Sink in the Tampa-area House race.
The seat was vacant following the death of longtime Republican Congressman C.W. Bill Young.
Democrats invested heavily in the race, seeing a possible pickup in a district that Obama carried in both 2008 and 2012.
"Any fair assessment about the role that debate of the Affordable Care Act played reaches the conclusion that, at best for the Republicans, it was a draw," Carney said. "I think that's evidenced by the fact that the Republican candidate himself didn't mention it in his victory speech."
The White House has argued that Democrats will not be damaged by the fallout from the president’s signature domestic initiative.
But the administration has also delayed several key provisions of the health law until after the midterms, claiming they are intended to give consumers and insurers greater flexibility. Republicans say many of the moves are intended to protect Democrats ahead of November’s crucial vote.
SENATE CONSERVATIVES FUND WADES DEEPER INTO HOUSE RACES
The Senate Conservatives Fund is no longer focused solely on reshaping the upper chamber.
The polarizing outside group is turning its attention and money to some House races, announcing endorsements in four safe Republican districts and in what is shaping up as a toss-up district.
"Many of you have encouraged us to expand our efforts into a few House races this year, so that's what we're going to do," SCF Executive Director Matt Hoskins told supporters.
SCF built its reputation and bank account by backing conservative candidates in Republican primary races, mostly for solidly GOP seats, in an effort to push Senate Republicans to the Right.
But the group has also attracted scorn from within the GOP for spending big money to affect battleground-state primaries — resulting in a few instances in which flawed Republican candidates lost in the general election.
Previously, the SCF had only once endorsed a House candidate: Rep. Jim Bridenstine of Oklahoma. The group did so, Hoskins said at the time, in hopes of grooming Bridenstine for a future Senate run. With the fresh round of House endorsements, the group’s farm team could grow.
Moderate Republicans will likely take a dim view of the chosen candidates, notably Bryan Smith, a challenger to Rep. Mike Simpson of Idaho, an ally of Speaker John Boehner.
The SCF is also throwing its support behind Matt Schultz, who hopes to replace retiring Rep. Tom Latham in Iowa; Chad Mathis of Alabama; Barry Loudermilk of Georgia; and Alex Mooney of West Virginia.
SEN. MARK BEGICH TAKES ON KOCH BROTHERS IN TELEVISION AD
Democratic Alaska Sen. Mark Begich's re-election campaign is hitting back at the founders of Americans for Prosperity, hoping to counter the conservative group's blitz of negative ads.
Begich's first television spot accuses billionaire Republican mega-donors Charles and David Koch of leveling dubious claims against him in $850,000-worth of ads this cycle. The spot also highlights the recent shutdown of a Koch Industries-owned refinery in Alaska.
"I don't go down to tell them what to do," one man says of the Koch brothers in the ad, "and I expect them not to come up to Alaska and tell us what to do."
One recent AFP ad targeting Begich featured an actor posing as an Alaska voter. In another, a narrator urged Alaskans to "tell Sen. Begich to keep his word and stop supporting a carbon tax.” Begich is not on record supporting such a measure.
Begich isn’t the first vulnerable Democratic senator who has been forced onto television by AFP. Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, one of the group's main targets, released her first television ad in December, much earlier than is normal, to fight back against AFP ads tying her to Obamacare.
AFP has already spent more than $30 million nationwide on ads in this midterm cycle.
"We will continue to hold Sen. Begich accountable for pushing Obama's big-government agenda in Alaska," said AFP Alaska spokesperson Heidi Gay.