What would it mean if the Republicans lost next Tuesday’s special election to fill the open seat in New York’s 26th Congressional District?
Democrats argue, with considerable justification, that it would signal popular opposition to the House Republican plan to “overhaul” Medicare.
Republicans argue that it would mean that Tea Party candidate Jack Dean siphoned off too many conservative votes from the GOP nominee, thus causing her defeat.
Professional analysts like Charlie Cook, whose Cook Political Report is sort of the gold standard for assessing these things, argue that such a result would simply mean that the GOP would have one less seat in Congress. Attempts to glean deeper meaning would be futile.
Here’s how the race stands at the moment:
- New York’s 26th is a Republican district that runs form Buffalo to Rochester, NY. All things being equal, it would elect a Republican to Congress.
- Three-time NY 26 Congressional hopeful Jack Dean has somehow reconfigured himself as a Tea Party candidate. Mr. Dean is wealthy and spending freely. He is currently garnering about one-fifth of the primary vote, if polls are to be believed.
- Democratic candidate Kathy Hochul has been gaining support, largely by portraying her GOP opponent as a Paul Ryan Republican out to chain-saw Medicare and Social Security.
- The Republican candidate, Jane Corwin, has responded by abandoning the Ryan budget plan and hightailing it in the opposite direction. Indeed, if the utterly dishonest television advertisement below is any indication, she’s now campaigning as a liberal Democrat.
- Outside groups are pouring money into the race. Republican affiliates are doing everything they can to make Jack Dean’s campaign collapse. Democratic affiliates are hammering away on the Medicare issue.
- Recent polling indicates a very close race between the GOP and Democratic nominees.
But let’s get back to the original question and refine it a bit. If Hochul wins, how will politicians react to the results?
Answer: Democratic politicians will see it as a huge win for the Medicare issue and adjust their re-election campaigns accordingly. Republican politicians will see it as a defeat for U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget proposal and adjust their re-election campaigns accordingly.
Veteran Republican law-makers and political operatives came to the conclusion that the Ryan budget plan was a loser issue some time ago, but they’ve been tight-lipped about it, for fear of ruffling the feathers of the House GOP leadership. As Newt Gingrich showed last Sunday on “Meet The Press,” you can kick up a mighty storm if you don’t choose your words carefully on this subject.
For veteran GOP pols, Rep. Ryan’s announcement that he would not seek the open US Senate seat in Wisconsin (being vacated by Democratic Sen. Herb Kohl, who is retiring) was a significant political event. Ryan explained his decision by saying that he felt he could “do more” as chairman of the House Budget Committee. And he’s right about that. Being Chairman of the House Budget Committee is indeed more influential than being a new US Senator with no seniority.
But between reality and perception, the poet said, falls the shadow. And what veteran GOP pols saw in the shadows was this: Rep. Ryan had a chance to basically run a statewide referendum on his budget plan in a state that (for the moment) is slightly more Republican than Democrat. He had a chance to truly test his ideas in the electoral marketplace. What the pols took away from his deciding not to do just that was weakness, or insecurity. Put bluntly, they thought that he thought he might lose.
So for them, that was the “tell:” the author of the plan doesn’t think he can sell it. If NY 26 goes Democratic, they’ll know that the “tell” was correct.