Spinning NY26: What Was Behind the Suprising Democratic Win?

Democrat Kathy Hochul scored an upset win in a special election Tuesday that had long been expected to be an easy victory for Republicans. But GOP candidate Jane Corwin lost her early lead after expressing support for a GOP budget plan that would cut billions from Medicare. The close of polls marked the official start of the partisan spinning about what was behind this Republican loss.

Tonight we showed that many voters are willing to ignore a party label and vote for the person and for the message they believe in. We showed that thousands upon thousands of voters are more powerful than millions of dollars in outside money....

We can help Western New Yorkers get back to work by helping small businesses create jobs. And we can balance our budget the right way — not on the backs of our seniors — but by closing corporate loopholes for companies that ship jobs overseas, and ending subsidies to Big Oil and yes, by making the multi-millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share.

And we can ensure we do not decimate Medicare. We will keep the promises made to our seniors who have spent their lives paying into Medicare, so they can count on health care when they need it most.

—Congresswoman-elect Kathy Hochul in her victory speech Tuesday night

The discourse of this election leaves me concerned. We cannot continue to play gotcha politics, and avoid confronting the major issues taht we face in this country. Both sides need to be able t offer ideas, to have open conversation and compromise....

I just want everyone to know that I confronted the issues head on, that leadership isn't about ducking from the issues. Leadership isn't about running away from what you believe in.

Republican Jane Corwin in her concession speech

This campaign was about you and your families and we the people. It's about changing our government to work for the people, not the investment bankers and multinational corporations. when the three men in a room tried to tell us who would be on the ballot, 12,000 of you said, "No." And when the lobbyists came and spent millions of dollars to buy this election, we said, "No, we won't vote. You won't tell us how to vote." 

When the Wall Street investment bankers said we don't need to make things in Ameirca anymore, we said, "No, you are wrong." You are destroying our jobs, our homes, our health care, our social security, and putting our children in debt and poverty.

Indenpendent Tea Party candidate Jack Davis on Election Night

There are two reasons we won tonight. Kathy Hochul is a great candidate and a Western New Yorker through and through. And New Yorkers of all political persuasions do not want to destroy Medicare. This election was a strong referendum on both.

— Sen. Charles Schumer

Republicans can’t really pin the blame for this result on Mr. Davis. They do, however, have a couple of more credible arguments.

First, any one special election probably does not have all that much predictive power. Once there are several special elections, they may begin to mean something, but one taken in isolation is a rather fuzzy indicator.

Second, Ms. Corwin had very high unfavorable ratings and tried a crass political stunt that backfired, so she was probably a below-average candidate.

—Five Thirty Eight's Nate Silver in The New York Times

I don’t care what Republicans say publicly on Wednesday: This race has to worry them, and it will petrify first-term Republicans in middle-of-the-road or Democratic-leaning districts who voted for the Ryan budget. Democrats should be very grateful that Ryan put his plan together, and that House Speaker John Boehner forced Republicans to vote on it.

—E.J. Dionne in The Washington Post

To say that this special election defeat of the GOP is a repudiation of the GOP’s efforts on Medicare is laughable on its face.

The truth of the matter is that the Republican Party of New York sucks and has sucked for a while. It is especially terrible at special elections where the out of touch party leaders pick state legislators whom everyone hates and runs them.

—Erick Erickson in Red State

The American people like Medicare. Polls have always shown that they would rather see taxes raised (at least on the rich) than see Medicare cut. Medicare, like Social Security, is one of those programs that American will fight to protect, because it appeals to their sense of reciprocal solidarity: everyone puts in, everyone takes out. Parties ignore that reality at their peril.

—New America Foundation's James Pinkerton in Politico

It’s bad enough that Hochul is running even with Obama’s totals from the best Democratic year in the past three decades. But the comparison to 2010 is truly frightening. Republicans were competitive in two statewide races last year, those for comptroller and attorney general. Fueled by the GOP wave, the Republican candidates in those races received 66 and 60 percent in NY-26 — well above McCain’s 52 percent in 2008 and George W. Bush’s 55 percent in 2004. Hochul is running 15 points ahead of the lowest performing 2010 Democrat, and, because of Davis, Republican Jane Corwin is running about 18 percent below the lowest performing Republican.

The verdict is clear. For whatever reason, the blue-collar independents and Democrats who voted Republican in droves last year did not vote GOP tonight. And many blue-collar Republicans voted for Davis rather than Corwin.

—American Enterprise Institute's Henry Olsen in the National Review