Entries Tagged as 'NY-26'

NY-26′s Biggest Loser: Medicare Reform

May 25th, 2011 at 11:53 pm 41 Comments

As a life-long Democrat, case I should be celebrating the victory of Kathy Hochul in Tuesday’s special election for the U.S. House of Representatives. And the excitement I feel should be boundless, considering my background as a Democratic operative, including stints as executive director of two of my party’s three major campaign committees (the DNC and the DCCC).

But truth be told, my sense of partisan satisfaction is tempered considerably by what I fear will be the major outcome from yesterday’s results: Hanging any notion of Medicare reform around the necks of Republican candidates will be virtually the entire Democratic playbook in the 2012 Congressional and Senatorial campaigns. The voters’ verdict in the New York 26th race almost ensures that serious discussions about essential entitlement reform are likely to be kicked down the road once again.

Republicans demagogued health care reform relentlessly and shamelessly in the run up to the 2010 midterm elections, and it worked for them. Democrats will do the same on entitlements between now and November of next year, and odds are it will work for them—they will pick up seats as a result.

The list of losers in yesterday’s special election starts with the Republican nominee, Jane Corwin, but House Republicans who embraced Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s ideas about radical changes to Medicare certainly share that dubious distinction. However, other losers may also include those Democrats, such as Senators Mark Warner (VA), Dick Durbin (IL), and Kent Conrad (ND), who have been trying to nudge their colleagues toward budgetary discipline and fiscal reforms of some sort. They know, as does anyone who is paying the slightest bit of attention, that our current policies and practices—be they spending or revenues—are unsustainable.

Conservative Republicans and Tea Party adherents seem determined to repeal or alter in fundamental ways major sections of the social contract that evolved in the U.S. during the 20th century; the great majority of Democrats—most certainly including its left-leaning base—are committed to resisting such initiatives  as vigorously and as long as they might have to.

However, there are some Democrats—and I put myself in this category—who realize that specific elements of that compact are going to have to be renegotiated and recalibrated. What made sense in the mid-1930s (a retirement age of 65, for example), may no longer work. The current “fees for service” system upon which Medicare is based also will require reform. Paul Ryan’s vouchers may not be the answer, but neither is inaction.

My worry is that important and ultimately inescapable facts and their ramifications may already have been lost among the empty champagne bottles and sparkling confetti of last night’s Democratic victory party. If so, we’re all going to be worse off as a consequence.

Conservatives Scramble To Explain NY-26 Loss

May 25th, 2011 at 12:50 pm 53 Comments

Yesterday the GOP lost an important race in NY-26 when Democrat Kathy Hochul defeated Republican Jane Corwin.  Conservatives are already offering excuses minimizing the importance of this loss. Here are a few of the new ones hitting the blogosphere and talk radio:

Excuse #1: Blue collar voters are easily scared by Democrats. This argument was made by Henry Olsen from the National Review who argues that blue collar voters respond differently to GOP tactics and that “they are also susceptible to the age-old Democratic argument that the secret Republican agenda is to eviscerate middle-class entitlements to fund tax cuts for the wealthy. The truth is, if conservatives and Republicans are to move forward with entitlement reform (as they should), they need to address the real concerns of these pivotal voters.”

Excuse # 2: New York Republicans are way worse than the rest of the party. Erick Erickson was quick to subscribe to this belief. “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 who everyone hates and runs them”. So, naturally, this loss means nothing.

Erickson later revised his stance and blamed the press, bringing us to excuse #3: media bias. “The press’s ready willingness to believe Democrat spin is yet again driven home this morning by the Republican loss in New York last night,” Erickson said. “Immediately, the press was adopting Democrat spin that this was all about Medicare.”

Excuse #4: Chris Lee’s Craigslist scandal made the GOP loss inevitable. John McCormack from the Weekly Standard writes that the fact that this loss was “precipitated by Republican congressman Chris Lee’s Craigslist sex scandal and ensuing resignation” means that the Democrat win is not “all that impressive or significant”.

Excuse #5: Tea Party candidate Jack Davis split the Republican vote, making a win impossible. W. James Antle III says at the American Spectator, “Unless the “Tea Party” independent is a total non-factor, reading too much into this race would be like exaggerating the impact of the Djou race in Hawaii last year”.

Excuse #6: You can’t read too much into one district. Philip Klein from The Washington Examiner cautioned that “at the end of the day this is just one data point in a single Congressional district out of 435. So it would be silly for Republicans to panic suddenly flee from the Ryan plan.” Don’t give up hope – there are still 434 more chances for the win.

On his show today Rush Limbaugh introduced excuse #7: voters are easily confused. “What happened here is the Republican tea party candidates got confused … and bought the notion that this was a genuine tea party candidate running in NY, ” he said. “The voters actually thought they were voting for something other than what ended up happening.”

Top 5 NY-26 Excuses

David Frum May 25th, 2011 at 10:05 am 54 Comments

Coming excuses for NY 26:

1) It was a special election in a district that soon won’t exist anyway: ignore it.

2) The Democrat won because of a populist spoiler candidacy. This election only proves that Republicans should steer hard to the right to keep the Tea Party happy.

3) The Ryan plan is popular when Paul Ryan himself explains it. Therefore Republicans must nominate Paul Ryan for president.

4) Election shows importance of connecting with blue-collar voters. Therefore Republicans must nominate Sarah Palin for president.

5) Democrat Medi-scare tactics worked. Blame the media.


6) It was the creepy Craigslist sex scandal. ( h/t John McCormack)

Paul Ryan: 2012′s Goldwater?

David Frum May 25th, 2011 at 8:41 am 47 Comments

I used to worry that Sarah Palin would be the Barry Goldwater of 2012. My bad. Paul Ryan is the Barry Goldwater of 2012.

The Goldwater effect continues on this morning after the NY-26 debacle. Henry Olsen of AEI, as smart a political numbers guy as can be found on the political right, crunches the numbers to compare the performance of the 2011 special election candidates with the district-wide performance of all other GOP and Democratic candidates in 2010. He finds:

  • Republican congressional candidate Jane Corwin is running 18 points behind the worst-performing Republican of 2010
  • Democrat Kathy Hochul is running even with Barack Obama’s performance in the district in 2008 – the best Democratic showing in NY-26 in three decades.
  • The Republicans suffered their worst losses in the least-educated portions of the District, where former GOP voters seem to have deserted the party for an independent candidate, Jack Davis.

What should make this race all the more alarming for Republicans is that NY-26 turned into a referendum on the Ryan plan for Medicare. As Henry Olsen says:

blue-collar voters react differently to issues than the GOP base does. They are more supportive of safety-net programs at the same time as they are strongly opposed to large government programs in general. These voters crave stability and are uncertain of their ability to compete in a globalized economy that values higher education more each year. They are also susceptible to the age-old Democratic argument that the secret Republican agenda is to eviscerate middle-class entitlements to fund tax cuts for the wealthy.

The Ryan budget is uniquely vulnerable to that attack because it fuses very tough Medicare reforms with big tax cuts in the same document.

The political dangers in the Ryan budget could have been predicted in advance. In fact, they were predicted in advance – and widely. Yet the GOP proceeded anyway, all but four members of the House putting themselves on record in favor. Any acknowledgment of these dangers was instantly proclaimed taboo, as Newt Gingrich has painfully learned. Bill Kristol and Charles Krauthammer have enthusiastically promoted Paul Ryan as a presidential candidate. And this morning, as the reckoning arrives, the denial continues. Here’s Jonah Goldberg in a column arguing that “perhaps the only guy who can explain the GOP budget should run.”

In reality, Ryan is very unlikely to accept this draft. He declined the opportunity to run for US Senate in Wisconsin, likely because he sensed he could not win a state-wide election in which his budget would be the main issue.

Now we’re likely headed to the worst of all possible worlds. The GOP will run on a platform crafted to be maximally obnoxious to downscale voters. Some may hope that Tim Pawlenty’s biography may cushion the pain. Perhaps that’s right, at least as compared to Mitt Romney, who in the 2008 primaries did worst among Republicans earning less than $100,000 a year. And yes, Pawlenty is keeping his distance from the Ryan plan. But biography only takes you so far. The big issues of 2012 will be jobs and incomes in a nation still unrecovered from the catastrophe of 2008-2009. What does the GOP have to say to hard-pressed voters? Thus far the answer is: we offer Medicare cuts, Medicaid cuts, and tighter money aimed at raising the external value of the dollar.

No candidate, not even if he or she is born in a log cabin, would be able to sell that message to America’s working class.