Tomorrow is the first big special election of the post-2010 political environment. And Medicare is the specter haunting Republicans in New York's 26th congressional district.
As you know it's a three way race between a Republican, a Dem and a Tea Party candidate in what is normally a pretty Republican district -- NY-26. The latest polls show a close race but with Democrat Kathy Hochul opening up a lead. Siena came out with a poll over the weekend that showed a four point spread. And a poll out today from PPP shows a 6 point spread. Just as important both polls show the Tea Party candidate's support dropping fast while Hochul takes the lead -- suggesting this is not simply a matter of a split Republican field giving the Dem an opportunity.
And here's the key point: the race has revolved overwhelmingly around Medicare.
Republican Corwin first embraced the Ryan phase-out plan but it's clear been an albatross around her neck. She's even resorted to attacking Hochul over not promising clearly enough that she won't cut Medicare. And over the weekend she's even suggesting she might not support the Ryan phase-out plan after all. There's been a lot of spin and politicking on both sides. But this is the first real political test. It's far from clear who will win tomorrow night. It's a Republican district and three way races are notoriously hard to poll three way races. But it seems clear that the Republican will at least have a run for her life on her hands and there's probably better than 50-50 odds she'll lose. And it seems clear that it will be because Medicare Phase Out was lethal or nearly so, even in a strong Republican district.
And remember: the vote on the Ryan plan already happened. And all but six House Republicans voted for it.
Remember when the main-stream meme about the elections of 2010 was that all incumbents were in deep do-do? On some level, that may have been correct, but not so much in the nationals, not nearly as much as expected (the Senate held, the House flipped: not unusual in a mid-term election of a new President. You don't hear that meme being pushed in the MSM nearly so much now, but I'm betting there are a whole lot of people out there with "buyers' remorse" over their newly elected officials, especially in states like Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Michigan. Here in New York, not as much happened and a (admittedly Centrist) Democratic governor was elected. Still, there are plenty of pissed off people who are not liking their cuts to local programs in exchange for cuts to taxes for the rich. People eventually figure these things out, and this special election is another harbinger of things to come for the Paul Ryan Republicans, just as the recent one in New Hampshire was and the upcoming recall votes in Wisconsin will be. That old pendulum can't seem to avoid swinging back with a vengeance when the people are disappointed or, worse, upset with being taken to the cleaners for their trust. Even the under-educated know when they've been had and it's been rubbed in their faces. The House could easily flip again, and who knows what will happen in the Senate where there are many more Democratic seats at risk than Republican this time out. The Dems could still hold on, and if the Reps keep pissing off the parts of the electorate that got them where they are today (hello, elderly!), 2012 could be another nightmare for the Right.