Residents of Western New York are getting inundated with Robocalls from two very disparate politicians on the day before a very crucial special election in New York’s GOP-leaning 26th District. Former President Bill Clinton and Professional YouTube screamer and governor of NJ, Chris Christie, are vigorously urging voters there to go to the polls in Tuesday’s special election for Congress. Indeed, pundits regard (except Eric Cantor) the election as potential referendum on the GOP’s nefarious efforts to revamp medicare.
Former president Bill Clinton, who’s still quite popular, asks voters in an automated “robocall”to support Democrat Kathy Hochul, who leads in the GOP-leaning 26th District, according to the latest public opinion polls by Siena Research Institute and the left-leaning Public Policy Polling.
“You can count on Kathy to say no to partisan politics that would end Medicare as we know it to pay for more tax cuts for multimillionaires,” Clinton says in the robocall for Hochul, the Erie County clerk.
Meanwhile, Governor Chris Christie– who’s about as popularwith New Jersey residents as the empty-headed kids from MTV’s Jersey Shore–is strongly backing Republican Assemblywoman Jane Corwin.
“Jane is a real fighter who knows how to get things done” ~ Governor Christie
Many might be wondering why two party heavyweights are paying such close attention to a provincial election in the middle of May, a time in which the electorate isn’t traditionally tuned into politics. Perhaps Governor Christie understands that the sideshow of a Republican presidential nominating process and lack of a decisive candidate to beat President Obama is all but dead, and therefore is focusing on ensuring that a key GOP district remains red and loyal to the Republican agenda.
Although New York is a reliably Blue State and has always awarded the Democratic candidate in national elections, pieces of it are quite conservative. For example, the reliably Republican 26th congressional district in western New York that spans the suburbs of Buffalo, across hundreds of acres of farmland, to the suburbs of Rochester. In fact, registered Republicans outnumber registered Democrats there by around 30,000 and George Bush handily won the district in 2004, despite losing the state by 19 points. It was the only district that voted for John McCain in 2008 over Barack Obama.
Chris Lee, the Republican who had represented the district since 2008, won a whopping 74% of the vote at the 2010 mid-term election. Of course Lee was forced to resign earlier this year after photos surfaced showing him poising like a Kardashian in a shirtless photo he sent to a woman he met on Craig’s List. Now the district is totally up for grabs.
Jane Corwin, a wealthy conservative member of the state Assembly and otherwise shoo-in, curiously enough, is amid a extremely tight battle with Democratic candidate Kathy Hochul. Despite feeling a massive “buyer’s remorse” by voters upon closer examination of their irrational policies, the Tea Party is running third candidate, Jack Davis. As of right now Hochul leads Corwin 42% to 36% in the Public Policy Polling survey. The poll by Siena College gave the Democrat an edge of 4 percentage points.
A whole myriad of competing interest groups–from American Crossroads and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on the right trying to help Corwin and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the House Majority PAC on the left in support of Hochul–have devoted boat loads of cash to the special election.
So why on earth is this race garnering so much national focus and appearing as a bellwether district? It winnows down to on pure and simple issue: Medicare.
Corwin’s enthusiastic support of Republican Congressman Paul Ryan’s radical proposal to replace Medicare, the public health-care scheme for the elderly, with diminishing government subsidies for private insurance is proving to be the cause célèbre for Ms. Hochul and Democratic candidates in general.
“We can alter the national debate with one election,” says Hochul. Voting for her, she claims, would send a message to Republicans in Washington.
She has received the backing of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, which previously campaigned for the Republican who represented the area until 2008. More important, her pointed rhetoric seems to be resounding poignantly with the elderly voters in the district, where almost a quarter of voters are over 65 and almost two-thirds are over 45. Although Rep. Paul Ryan has been called “brave” and “daring” by commentators on the right for his medicare proposals, there’s a distinct chance that he’s dangerously imperiling the nascent Republican control of Congress, as well as emboldening the democratic base to vote against the Republican presidential candidate in 2012.
While many politicians tend to overplay the significance of these special elections, this race is actually quite important. A loss for the Corwin in the 26th would be a monumental embarrassment for the Republicans, suggesting that many other seats might be in jeopardy in 2012.
In sum, this race is down to the wire and too close to call; but the Democrats are counting on the great many elderly citizens of the 26th to come alive show their disapproval with Mr. Ryan’s plan to award the top 2 percent more tax breaks at the expense of their Medicare.