Jonathan Chait

NY-26 And The Retreat From Paul Ryan

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Interesting Stu Rothenberg analysis of the exploding special Congressional election in the 26th district of New York:

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.

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.

Rothenberg doesn't source any of these conclusions, but he is plugged in to House races and probably has a decent basis for them. The fact that Democrats have greater enthusiasm -- a reversal of the situation that has prevailed in nearly every race since the fall of 2009 -- is significant. Even more significant is the apparent fact that Jack Davis's support is dropping, yet Jane Corwin still seems to be trailing. Davis's right-wing/populist third-party candidacy dividing the conservative vote is one factor that made this election tricky to project as a national trend. If Kathy Hochul can win in this heavily Republican district without a huge third-party boost, that's a hugely auspicious sign for Democrats.

Finally, it's interesting that, with their back to the wall, Republicans are closing with the message "Democrats want to cut Medicare." In conjunction with Paul Ryan's markedly different tone yesterday, it's a sign that Republicans are completely abandoning the theme of the Ryan budget and recognizing it as a pure electoral liability, and returning to the protect-Medicare-from-any-tiny-cuts theme that helped them win in 2010.

Along those lines, here's a telling quote in The Hill from a GOP consultant in Wisconsin was trying to defend the popularity of Ryan's plan within Wisconsin:

Meanwhile, Colburn said, although Ryan has become better known in Wisconsin because of his leadership role in the House on the budget process, that will be a double-edged sword in a Senate campaign. “His budget plan essentially ends Medicare,” she said, previewing a potential Democratic attack.

Graul disagreed, saying the budget plan was“a lot more popular in Wisconsin than it may be elsewhere.”

I don't think he was trying to admit that the Plan is unpopular everywhere else, but there it is. The Ryan plan is officially political poison.

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