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Republicans rally to win closely watched race in Florida

In a Florida congressional district Democrats hoped to pick up - one President Obama narrowly carried last year - it was Republican David Jolly who rode opposition to Obamacare and a strong turnout effort to victory, enabling the GOP to retain the seat.

Just after polls closed, as the pre-Election Day votes were tallied, Democrat Alex Sink had a narrow edge, signaling that Democrats had done well with that critical early vote. But then Jolly rallied past her as the Election Day votes were tallied, and never looked back.

The final count was close, as expected, with Jolly winning by just over 1 percentage point.

The race was seen as a crucial test of the parties' midterm messages, as Jolly ran strongly against Obamacare, and millions of dollars from outside groups backed both candidates with advertising.

For Republicans, this is sure to be read as a boost for that message - though the more specific lesson, judging from the voting data, may be in the GOP's ability to rally their base with that opposition.

As the night ended, it appeared Jolly had gotten more than half of the Mitt Romney vote in the district while Sink got less than half of Mr. Obama's, possibly suggesting the GOP base was more energized in this campaign toward the end.

Moreover, Sink did about as well or better in simple percentage terms than Mr. Obama had in many individual precincts, but the actual counts of votes in them were consistently smaller than they had to be for her to win - again indicating that Democrats may have left more votes at home while Republicans got theirs to the polls.

Jolly did well along the coastal areas and well enough inland, and in Clearwater, to carry him through.

Looking at the broader House picture, Republicans came into 2014 with a strong chance to keep the House - and perhaps even add to their majority - and this race will do nothing to alter that picture.

It isn't an outright predictor and shouldn't be read as such - special elections, and any single district, simply aren't.

Before the last midterms, for instance, the political world watched the Democrats win a similarly contested race in Pennsylvania, and then the party lost 63 seats that fall.

But because midterm electorates do tend to skew older and more conservative, this was also a single-case test of Democrats' ability both to diffuse the opposition to the Affordable Care Act and to try to make 2014 look a little more like 2012. On Tuesday, it was the GOP that made things look - for a night at least, in one district - more like 2010.
  • Anthony Salvanto On Twitter»

    Anthony Salvanto is CBS News elections director