Floridians flock to the federal health-insurance exchange in higher numbers than any other state, but Obamacare-supporting political candidates, including incumbents and hopefuls, got beat in key state and federal races Tuesday.
Florida Democrats during the campaign tried unsuccessfully to paint President Donald Trump as the man who would repeal the Affordable Care Act and place millions of people with pre-existing conditions at risk, but Trump defeated Democratic challenger Joe Biden in the state, capturing more than 51% of the vote.
Also, Democratic U.S. House members Donna Shalala and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, both of whom were elected in 2018 mid-term elections following Trump’s attempt to repeal the federal health-care law, were defeated by Republican challengers Tuesday night in South Florida districts.
“When the policies are separated from the candidates, the partisanship, the racism, whatever else you want to throw at the wall, health care policies are popular, similar to the minimum wage being popular. It’s just been a failure of Democrats to make it an urgent economic issue that has credibility,” said Democratic media consultant Kevin Cate, whose clients this election cycle included U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and state Senate candidate Loranne Ausley, both Democrats who won their races.
“Whether that’s entirely the Democratic Party’s fault or the fault of voters being persuaded one way or another from advertising, or disinformation, it’s still a problem in Florida.”
Shalala headed the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services during the Clinton administration and is a staunch supporter of the law often called Obamacare. She was defeated Tuesday by former television reporter Maria Elvira Salazar, a Republican who in 2017 supported a House Republican tax proposal that would have made deep cuts to the Medicaid program. But in the run-up to this year’s election, Salazar took a nuanced stance on Obamacare, telling The Miami Herald that she would not vote to repeal it without first having something to take its place.
But longtime Florida political analyst Susan MacManus said Shalala’s defeat had little to do with health care or where the candidates stood on Obamacare.
“This was 100% the Latino vote,” MacManus said, noting that the bloc of voters, including Cuban-Americans as well as Nicaraguans, Hondurans, Venezuelans and Colombians, voted Republican “straight all the way down the ballot.” She said they were fueled by worries that Democrats were “socialists,” a description that Shalala said did not apply to her but that was true of some members of her party.
That Republican trend also hurt Mucarsel-Powell, who is Latino but a Democrat.
MacManus, a political science professor emeritus at the University of South Florida, said Shalala’s remarks that Gov. Ron DeSantis should shut down the state’s economy to try to prevent the continued spread of COVID-19 also didn’t resonate well with voters.
Obamacare supporters lose key races