Putting NY-26 in Proper Perspective

      Perhaps the only bright spot for Republicans in New York was the 26th Congressional District.  The only thing that kept that district out of Democratic hands was an ill-advised topless photo of the incumbent Congressman on Craigslist.   The result of yesterday’s special election put only the fourth Democrat since 1857 in Congress to represent this district, according to Think Progress (a liberal website).  They, along with practically every other liberal website along with their cohorts in the MSM, otherwise known as the propaganda arm of the Democratic Party, have been all over this story as evidence that Americans are “disgusted” with the Republican agenda in general and Medicare reform proposals in particular.

     Unfortunately, this morning I happened to catch some of the news where Steven King, a rare Republican Congressman from New York, echoed the ghost of Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) when he said, in reference to the Medicare issue, that the Republican Party needed to do a better job of articulating their proposals regarding Medicare.  We heard those same words from the Democrats after the midterm elections regarding Obamacare.  What this election proves, if nothing else, is that health care reform and the rising costs of health care remain very upfront in the minds of voters.  Personally, I would take a proposal to reform Medicare- a theoretical working plan-versus the very, very real Obamacare which is actual legislation.

     Before the Democrats get themselves too revved up regarding this election, let us put some of the numbers in perspective.  First, lets give Democrat Kathy Hochul credit for winning the election.  However, lets be mindful that absent the Medicare non-issue, Hochul was essentially a one-trick pony.  Exit polls indicated that concerns over Medicare trumped jobs concerns and the national debt in the 26th District.  Hochul gets credit to framing the debate, but more importantly, she gets more credit for distorting the debate.  Winning the election is only half the battle.  Considering that she ran on one issue and one issue only- Medicare- and that the Ryan plan will never be voted on as actual law any time soon (hence, Hochul will have no congressional vote to run on in 2012), chances are that a Republican will represent the 26th District come November 2012.

     Second, leading up to the election, Republican candidate Jane Corwin had, according to a Siena poll, a 5-point advantage as recently as a month ago, but in the ensuing month, polls from Siena showed a nine-point flip with Kochul leading by 4 percentage points as of May 21st.  Leading up to the election, in addition to Kochul framing the debate around one issue (Medicare), there were whispers that Corwin was not connecting in conservative Wyoming County and she was being described as too “richey rich” for that county.

     Third, lets not underestimate the roll that a third-party candidate, “Crazy Jack” Dean, had on this race.  He was a Tea Party candidate who managed to pull 8% of the vote.  There is no doubting that those who voted for Dean would have voted for Kochul.  In effect, Dean, more than Paul Ryan’s Medicare reform proposal, cost Corwin the election.  Do the Democrats honestly believe that those who voted for Dean would have even split their vote evenly between Corwin and Kochul?  Take his votes and flip them to Corwin and she, not Kochul, wins the election.

     Fourth, with most of the vote counted, Kochul led Corwin 47% to 43% with Dean getting 8%.  Without Dean in the race, Corwin wins 51-47%.  Note that number: 51%.  Although not Chris Lee numbers or traditional Republican numbers in the 26th District, it does break the 50% mark.  That is not something that Kochul can claim.  Hence, she gets to temporarily represent a district in which less than the half the people voted for her.  This is hardly a mandate on her or the single issue she distorted.  The actual vote was a Kochul victory by less than 5,000 votes.

     Fifth, regarding King’s remarks that sounded eerily like Wasserman-Schultz and Pelosi, it needs to be reiterated that Ryan’s plan is a proposal– a starting point- for reforming Medicare.  Hopefully, with a Republican House and soon to be Republican Senate, any Medicare reform would be openly debated (as Obama promised with Obamacare) and that any vote would be not be part of a backdoor budget reconciliation process.  And if it goes down to defeat, it goes down to defeat.  But, there is a shred of truth to King’s statements.  For example, Democratic characterizations that those on Medicare will suddenly be thrown to the wolves is typical Democratic/liberal scare tactics against the elderly.  If memory serves me correctly, it really wouldn’t affect anyone over the age of 55 when and if enacted.  Kochul, with lots of help from the DNC framed reform as “privatization.” 

      Going forward, practically every somewhat or definitely independent analysis- Cook, Rothenberg, Sabato, etc.- comes to the same conclusion: If a Democrat won this special election (as they did), it means simply that the Republican majority lost exactly one vote in the House that they will most likely regain in 2012.  In effect, wihout Medicare being on the legislative agenda in this Congress, Kochul loses an important talking point for re-election in 2012.  There is greater pressure on the Democratic Party to defend this seat than it is to win it in a special, three-way election.  Kochul won this election not on what she stands for, but what she stands against.  Time will tell whether she supports, for example, increasing payroll taxes to insure the solvency of Medicare long term and short term.  Time will tell how this plays out in a strongly, conservative district.  What is more important- a Medicare reform proposal, or the very real and close to home increase in taxes?  In fact, what exactly is Kochul’s ideas and proposals to insure the solvency of Medicare?

     In conclusion, the Democratic Party can crow about their “victory” in New York’s 26th District.  Wasserman-Schultz can pat herself on the back.  The liberal press and websites can claim a huge victory against Paul Ryan.  But, the truth will be more evident in November, 2012.  Let them have their day- their 15 minutes of fame.  Most of all, let them have their false hopes.