NY-26: The Pre-Spinning Begins

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
May 23 2011 11:32 AM

NY-26: The Pre-Spinning Begins

On Friday afternoon, right after the close of business, American Crossroads spokesman Jonathan Collegio sent out an unusually speculative e-mail. American Crossroads is the 527 that first jumped into the race and nationalized it, trying to minimize Tea Party candidate Jack Davis's support while bucking up Republican Jane Corwin. On Friday, when Collegio sent the e-mail, no polling was showing Democrat Kathy Hochul in the lead. That made Collegio's tone more interesting.

"This 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," wrote Collegio, referring to Davis. "I’m not sure what the overarching meaning is there, other than that some older men are willing to spend vast amounts of treasure pursuing inexplicable ends. No one doubts that the 2012 environment is different from what it was in 2010, where Republicans were able to win elections without even running campaigns. A head-to-head would be more difficult now than it was six months ago. But let’s not be silly and ascribe deep ideological meaning to an atypical three-way House race in upstate New York."

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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This is not the sort of message you shoot over to reporters if you think the election's looking like a Republican win. Seventeen hours later, the Siena poll was released, showing Hochul with a 4-point lead. And on Sunday a Public Policy Polling survey showed Hochul with a 6-point lead.

The whole American Crossroads email, for reference:

After reading a lot of Democratic spin about how the NY-26 special election is a great ideological referendum, I wanted to hit the reset button on everyone’s brains before the weekend, and take a quick moment to imagine NY-26 if the tables were turned.

Imagine a three way special election between a Democrat, a Republican, and a Green Party candidate. This Green Party candidate was actually a Republican, who had run for the same office as a Republican in three of the last four elections. And he didn’t actually receive the Green Party’s endorsement; instead, he paid the state elections board $3,000 to be on the Green Party’s ballot "line".

Now imagine that, by spending $3 million of his own money on TV ads, this Green Party candidate split the Democratic vote and made what should have been an easy Democratic win into a competitive race.

Then, imagine a bunch of Republican operatives claiming the closeness of the race had nothing to do with vote-splitting – but was rather a referendum on Obamacare.

The very earth would cry foul.

Yet, this is exactly what is happening in NY-26. This 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. I’m not sure what the overarching meaning is there, other than that some older men are willing to spend vast amounts of treasure pursuing inexplicable ends.

No one doubts that the 2012 environment is different from what it was in 2010, where Republicans were able to win elections without even running campaigns. A head-to-head would be more difficult now than it was six months ago. But let’s not be silly and ascribe deep ideological meaning to an atypical three-way House race in upstate New York.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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