JONATHAN CHAIT MAY 9, 2011
Polls have showed a tightening race in the special election for Congress in New York. Now, for the first time, a PPP poll has Democrat Kathy Hochul pulling ahead of Republican incumbent (and hilarious parody target) Jane Corwin. Hochul has been pounding Corwin on her support for the Republican budget, making a sleeper district that Republican won with 73% of the vote in 2010, and 55% of the vote in 2008, surprisingly competitive.
There is one unusual factor at work here -- a third-party candidacy by former Democrat-turned-Tea Party populist Jack Davis that's pulling support from Corwin. Still, Hochul is now viewed more favorably (46-40) than Corwin (39-42). If Hochul pulls this out, it will exert a huge influence over the Congressional landscape. Democrats even in unfriendly districts will have a viable plan to unseat Republican incumbents. Meanwhile, Republicans, who have been riding high on ideological hubris, will suddenly come face to face with some cold political reality. Conservatives have spent the last two years convincing each other that their only mistake under President Bush was to abandon conservative purity, and that they were coming back since 2009 due to the popularity of their agenda, rather than due to the good fortune of being the out party during an economic crisis. Their vote for the Ryan budget was a product of this wild overconfidence. Republicans in Congress will probably get a lot more gun shy now.