The race in New York’s 20th congressional district was finally decided yesterday. The seat was vacated when Kirsten Gillibrand was appointed to take Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat. After a tight election contest, Republican Jim Tedisco conceded, opening the way for Democrat Scott Murphy to be seated in Congress.
Steve Benen notes, “It was, at least on paper, a race Republicans should have won. They didn’t.” Before the election, RNC Chairman Michael Steele boasted, “Our game is not up…our message still rings true with countless Americans, specifically with those in the 20th congressional district.”
The New York special election was held on March 31, 2009. Wasting absolutely no time, the very next day, Steele wrote an audacious — and foolish — op-ed in Politico, triumphantly declaring the outcome a defeat for President Obama’s agenda:
Tedisco’s victory will be a credible repudiation of the spending spree that Obama and Congress have been on since January. Even the executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee acknowledged over the weekend that the race was “a referendum on the Economic Recovery Act and Barack Obama’s policies.” Well, the DCCC is right — this likely Republican victory is a referendum on the president. [...]
Well, the voters have spoken, and while the results are still pending, Republicans are confident that the final vote tallies will show those voters have rejected the president’s approach. [...]
The ground has shifted, and is shifting, as the voters become increasingly worried about Obamanomics. [...]
Tuesday’s election was a vote of “no confidence” in the Democrats’ tax, spend and borrow approach. I hope Obama and congressional Democrats are listening.
“That’s a seat that we should be able to go in and be competitive and win,” Steele said prior to the special election. “I’m gonna put — make it a focal point, right out of the box.”
In early March, FiveThirtyEight.com’s Sean Quinn quoted former high-level RNC staffers as saying, if Tedisco loses, “Steele is done.”
Steele has explained his gaffes in the past by claiming, “There is a logic behind it…it’s all strategic.”