As voters in New York’s 26th congressional district prepare to go to the polls tomorrow, many observers are predicting an upset in this heavily-Republican district. The special election has been viewed as a referendum on the House Republican plan to privatize Medicare, with polls showing Republican Jane Corwin’s support for the plan dragging her down significantly in a district that has elected only three Democrats since 1857. According to a recent Siena poll, 21 percent of voters say Medicare is their top issue, and Democrat Kathy Hochul leads by 29 points among those voters. A new PPP poll shows Hochul up six points.
Facing this grim reality, Corwin backed off her support for the GOP plan authored by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) just two days before the election:
“The problem is with all the commercials and all the people being inundated, they’re hearing the lies,” she said. “And that’s why I’m out here telling the truth. At the end of the day, people will have to decide. But I just want everyone to be clear on what my position is.”
She calls Ryan’s plan “a terrific first step” but makes clear that she will never support controversial vouchers for Medicare.
“It’s starting a conversation that we absolutely have to have, but I’m not married to it,” she said. “I certainly would entertain any proposals that would improve any of these programs. … I’ve been saying the same thing since Day One.”
Corwin’s comments in Greece, NY, as reported by Politico yesterday, are a fairly stunning reversal for someone who has vocally supported the plan throughout the short campaign. During the debate, Corwin was specifically asked whether she would ever consider withdrawing her support for Ryan’s plan, given its unpopularity. She passionately defended the plan — saying she was “very supportive” of it — and implied she would never abandon it:
CORWIN: What I’m supporting is a plan that will actually maintain benefits for people 55 and over and for people 55 and under, protect the program so it’s there for future generations. It is not a voucher system – seniors can select from several different programs.
I’ve told you all along that one of the goals of the Prosperity Project is to back up those who agree with us that Washington’s spending is out of control and we have to do something about it. Jane Corwin is one of those people. Let’s back her up. Let’s put our money where our mouths are.”
His PAC also approvingly re-posted a Washington Post article headlined, “N.Y. Race is a Referendum on GOP Medicare Plan.” Indeed, it appears it is.