New York House race
Posted in Congress by Peter W. Schramm
The New York congressional seat
special election (held by Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand) has ended in a dead heat, with the Democrat ahead by 65 votes. It looks like the race will not be decided until after April 13. Gillibrand had won by over 20 points in November, and yet, many are claiming this a huge GOP defeat
. I don't get it.
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This is a seat Republicans held from 1979-2006--Gerald Solomon and then John Sweeney. Sweeney lost to Gillebrand in 2006--pictures of Sweeney drunk at some fraternity part surfaced. I think the district went for Bush twice. Republicans are also said to hold a significant registration advantage over Democrats in the district. Tedisco ran what I thought to be a pretty weak campaign. Lots of TV adds trying to seize on populist anger--associating Murphy with the AIG bailouts and pointing out that Murphy said he was proud to have created jobs in India. Even my populist wife Natalie didn't go for this stuff.
The real sages pronounced that a close race here would have little real significance. It's neither an affirmation nor repudiation of Obama. As Flagg points out, it is evidence that the Republicans have yet to find their oppositional "voice."
One of the many disturbing things about this situation is that Republicans for the first time in decades don't have an issue that resonates with the broad public. Since the 70s they have had (at various times)crime, taxes, national defense or welfare as issues on which they could offer clear and popular alternatives to the public. What do the Republicans have now? Crime is no longer a NATIONAL issue, there is no big resentment of welfare, or any national call for income tax cuts. The Iraq War has ended the clear Republican edge on national security for the moment. So what is there? Complaining about how Obama's budget will add to the national debt won't do it. The populist anger out there has to be channeled into a set of policies that offer plausible, real life improvements in people's lives. Pretending to be extra super mad about AIG won't do it and neither will complaining that Obama is a socialist or a fascist or whatever. Before Republicans find their voice, they are going to have to find an agenda.
I agree with Pete, as usual
Republicans do need a true oppositional voice to articulate conservative positions. However, this race is significant and should be won by the Republican candidate based on some 10K absentee ballots - unless ACORN does the counting.
The GOP needs to focus on INDIVIDUAL LIBERTY - specifically the economic facet. Talk up small business owners - especially successful immigrants who love their new home. What makes America special? ("Oh, you don't think America is better than country X, Mr. Democrat? That's very interesting. Why don't you tell us why . . .") We need to show the evil of hampering ability as the price of achieving "equality": GOP-stamped pamphlets containing the short story "Harrison Bergeron".
Contrary to #5, there is no particular reason to think that Tedisco will win simply on the basis of a small Republican edge over Democrats (not over all non-Republicans) in the absentee ballots. This is simply reflective of the district registration. Problem is, district registration is not what it seems. Not only are there many registered Republicans who have abandoned the party, at least for the time being. There are also registered Republicans who were never genuine Republicans, but liked having influence in Republican primaries for those local offices the GOP had long controlled.
No one except Democratic hacks are, to my knowledge, arguing that this tie (whoever the ultimate winner is) signifies a big defeat for the Republicans. It signifies a small disappointment, but part of that is the poor campaign that Tedisco apparently ran. Michael Barone's posts on this race (in the last couple of days) are well-nigh definitive. He declines to predict a winner, or to see much meaning in the result.
At one time I used to do precinct work here Upstate, mostly in small towns and rural areas. As recently as twenty years ago, it was the conventional wisdom that (all else being equal), Republicans have an advantage among the pool of those who cast absentee ballots. I imagine that is still the case.