Sabato Has It Leans-D
Sink is by far the better-known candidate, owing to her previous time in office and narrow gubernatorial loss, and she has raised much more money than Jolly — according to the most recent campaign finance reports, Sink had more than $1 million cash on hand compared to Jolly’s $140,000, which presumably was used at least in part to win the primary. Democrats also preferred to face Jolly in this race because of his past work as a lobbyist.
Part of our ratings change here is based on the incentives for this special: Democrats really need to win this seat if they have any hope of regaining a House majority. It’s a politically marginal seat that President Obama won 50% to 49% over Mitt Romney in 2012, and it’s the kind of seat upon which a future Democratic House majority would be built as Democrats lose their remaining conservative redoubts in the South and Appalachia.
National Republicans, on the other hand, have a 17-seat edge in the House, and they recognize that their best candidates in this district took a pass.
Sabato probably has it right, especially with Jolly's money problem and the compressed election schedule. But that's no reason not to fight.
Everything I've read about Jolly says he'd be a nice addition to the GOP caucus, but there are two more important reasons for the GOP to get behind their man.
The first is that no matter how safe your majority might seem, it never truly is. And 17 seats is not a lot to sit on, metaphorically speaking.
The second is that the establishment GOP has got to stop running away from fights. When Screamin' Howard Dean chaired the DNC, he took centrist candidates in marginal districts in Red states -- and rode the 2006 wave to make winners of them. The fact that Professor Wiggleroom and Nancy Pelosi were willing to use them as disposable pawns in the ♡bamaCare!!! game is neither here nor there. Fact is, Dean showed the way to winning big majorities in wave elections.
Wave elections are built on ripples -- like winning marginal seats in special elections. Think for example of Scott Brown in Massachusetts at the tail end of 2009, leading into the GOP blowout in 2010.
Sure, the establishment GOP could let this race slide, and almost certainly keep its majority in 2015. But if they want control of the Senate, they need to start building momentum now, and that means fighting for every seat.