Posted Wednesday, May 18, 2011, at 10:06 AM
BUFFALO -- I'm in historic upstate New York, birthplace of Richard Brookhiser, Carl Paladino, and others, to cover the special election for Chris Lee's old House seat. As I land I read this from Charlie Cook:
In this Republican-leaning 26th District fight, there is one Democrat, one Republican and, oh, yes, a wealthy, abortion-rights, economic protectionist, former Republican, former Democrat, current tea partier, who ran for Congress in 2004, 2006 and 2008—spending a total of $5.2 million of his own money—and has already spent at least another $1.7 million in this race for Congress.
If anyone can find a race next year with a similar configuration, be my guest and apply the "lessons learned" from this race to that one. But implying that the outcome of this race portends anything about any conventional race next year amounts to cheap spin and drive-by "analysis" of the most superficial kind, which is sadly becoming all too prevalent in Washington. There are a lot of folks in D.C. who would be well-served switching to decaf.
Well, I'm not pretending other races will look like this one. It's a special election! Democrats ran the table in special House elections in 2009 and 2010, and they still got pulverized in November. And the Democrats I talk to are pre-spinning a loss here by saying, hey, even John McCain won it. (It was only one of two New York seats he carried.) But the fact that American Crossroads, the American Action Network, the Tea Party Express, the DCCC and the NRCC are all playing in here indicates that it's close. Cook's own rating service says the race is a toss-up. I'll find out why shortly, but is it as easy to imagine a toss-up if Republicans were riding high and not struggling to explain and defend their Medicare plan?