Tuesday, May 17, 2011

NY-26: As shocking as it seems, could the Democrats actually win this?

I've been meaning to do an update post on the NY-26 special election, set for May 24. I wrote about it last month, noting that what is basically a safe Republican seat in suburban Buffalo (and small-town and rural Western New York) had turned into a toss-up as a result of a divide on the right, with a Tea Partier, Jack Davis, challenging the Republican candidate, Jane Corwin, with the Democrat, Kathy Hochul, not far behind and certainly within striking distance.

Well, while Corwin is certainly conservative enough to appeal broadly across the Republican spectrum and while she certainly has significant Tea Party support of her own, The Rothenberg Political Report has now moved the race from "Lean Republican" to "Toss-Up/Tilt Democratic":

Both parties agree that the race remains close – "within the margin of error" is the phrase most often used – and Republican Jane Corwin certainly has a chance to energize and turnout GOP voters in this Republican-leaning district. But Democrats seem more enthusiastic right now.

After a series of focused attacks in the paid and earned media, Republicans apparently have succeeded in bringing down self-proclaimed Tea Party candidate Jack Davis's numbers to a place where the race should be winnable for Corwin.

But those one-time Davis voters are not going immediately to Corwin, raising new doubts about the Republican’s ability to grow her support in the final week. More importantly, Hochul appears to have solidified her image and even increased her share of the vote.

What's interesting is that this local race is essentially national in terms of issues and is thus a possible indicator of where things might go in 2012:

Democrats have been pounding Corwin for supporting Wisconsin Cong. Paul Ryan's budget, including dramatic changes to Medicare. Those attacks apparently have made it difficult for Corwin to attract disaffected Davis voters. 

It's not all about Ryan and the Republicans' radical right-wing budget plans, but there's enough of that to suggest that the Republicans may be in trouble, with voters coming to learn of those plans and turning away in disgust, particularly independents.

And if the Tea Party, or at least the part of it that refuses to be absorbed completely into and/or co-opted by the GOP, continues to throw up right-wing candidates that eat away at Republican support, as it may well do all across the country, the prospects for Democrats will be even better, with even fairly safe Republican seats turned into competitive races, like NY-26, seats that might just flip.

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