Thanks to House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) plan to end Medicare, the GOP has watched its hold on New York’s 26th district — which has elected only three Democrats since 1857 — whither away. Today is the special election between Democrat Kathy Hochul and Republican Jane Corwin and, according to polls, Hochul has the edge. Desperate to minimize the damage from an unexpected potential upset, Republicans and conservative groups are insisting that the vote is in no way a referendum on Ryan’s budget plan:
– CANTOR: At a weekly briefing yesterday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) was asked whether Corwin’s defeat would be a blow against the Ryan Medicare plan. “No. Not at all.” “I know this town loves to take signals from individual races,” he said, but “this is a race about the fact that it’s a three-way race.” He then pointed back to the November 2010 elections as a better indication of how the public feels about the Republican agenda.
— AMERICAN CROSSROADS: Last Friday, American Crossroads spokesman Jonathan Collegio blamed Tea Party candidate Jack Davis for unnecessarily complicating election. “The race is competitive because a phony Tea Party candidate is spending millions of dollars purposefully confusing voters in an attempt to split the Republican vote,” he said. “[L]et’s not be silly and ascribe deep ideological meaning to an atypical three-way House race in upstate New York.”
— CORWIN: Corwin herself insisted today that the election was not about Ryan’s plan. “A lot of people are saying it is a referendum on the House Republicans, she said. “I think this is more about philosophies. About understanding the conservative philosophy. And how people are looking for fiscal responsibility in Washington.”
But no matter how hard conservatives spin, it can’t escape the long-attested fact that this special election is definitively about Ryan’s deeply unpopular plan. A recent Siena poll indicated that Medicare was the top issue for voters in the district, and Ryan himself raised at least $5,000 for Corwin, stating in an “urgent” email to supporters that Jane Corwin “is one of those people” who backs his goals. His Prosperity Project PAC even re-posted a Washington Post article with the headline: “N.Y. Race is a Referendum on GOP Medicare Plan.”
And indeed it is. Corwin was considered a “shoo-in” candidate until she started “vigorously” defending Ryan’s Medicare plan. After all, 84 percent of the public oppose his plan with over 70 percent viewing entitlement programs as “very” or “extremely” important to their personal financial security in retirement.
GOP pollsters even warned House Republicans before they voted on Ryan’s plan last month that is was “a political time bomb.” The poll numbers were “so toxic,” that the National Republican Congressional Committee told GOP leadership, “You might not want to go there.” But alas they did — and now, in the last hours of the election, Hochul is in the lead.