Last night, the special House election in New York’s 26th congressional district ended in what feels like the traditional manner for Republicans in these circumstances: disappointment.
Late last night, the National Republican Congressional Committee sent to reporters a quick reminder on the dangers of over-interpreting a special House election:
MARK CRITZ’S (PA-12) VICTORY IN A MARCH 2010 SPECIAL ELECTION WAS SEEN AS A SIGN OF THE DEMOCRATS’ STRONG MAJORITY:
“A buoyant Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Wednesday basked in the Democrats’ special-election triumph while bashing Republicans and expressing confidence that her party will retain control of the House.”
“Pelosi is clearly happy and relieved that former Murtha aide Mark Critz will replace his old boss. Throughout The Hill’s interview, Pelosi laughed, cracked some jokes and even teased her questioners.”
“Despite some predictions of a huge GOP wave this fall, Pelosi says it’s not going to happen: ‘One thing I know for sure is that Democrats will retain their majority in the House of Representatives.’” (Bob Cusack and Jared Allen, “Bring it on: Pelosi predicts ‘for sure’ that Dems will win House,”The Hill, 5/19/10)
“Congressional Democrats on Wednesday seized on their special election victory in a Pennsylvania House district and other primary results as evidence that they can stem Republican political momentum, as both parties sifted through Tuesday night’s returns for lessons to learn and mistakes to avoid heading to November.”
“‘We are going to maintain our majority,’ Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the majority leader, said.”
“‘Republicans test-drove their November strategy in Pennsylvania and it crashed,’ said Representative Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said.” (Carl Hulse, “House Victory Lifts Democrats’ Hopes for Fall,” The New York Times, 5/20/10)
“For the GOP, this was a test run of their strategy to rally voters around opposition to the Obama agenda and to personalize the race against Nancy Pelosi as the face of runaway liberalism.”
Republicans are on course to make substantial gains in November, but the wave that would bring them the 40 seats they need to reach the majority seems more elusive today than it did before they fell short in Pennsylvania.” (Eleanor Clift, “Firewall Around the Democrats’ House,”Newsweek, 3/21/10)
“House Democratic leaders had a clear message for their nervous rank and file as they assessed the Pennsylvania special election results Wednesday morning: It might not be that bad.”
“The Democratic victory in the late Rep. John Murtha’s district punctured the Republican narrative that a GOP machine turbocharged by tea party energy would run roughshod over the Democratic majority this fall by running against health care, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and President Barack Obama, Democrats said.” (Steven T. Dennis and Jackie Kucinich, “Democrats Breathing Easier Now,” Roll Call, 05/20/10)
As we all know, Republicans went on to win 63 seats in the midterms. For that matter, the NRCC could have spotlighted Bill Owen’s victory over Doug Hoffman and the still-on-the-ballot Dede Scozzafava in New York’s 23rd district in November 2009, or Scott Murphy’s win over Jim Tedisco in New York’s 20th district in March 2009.
Still, for the GOP, there is a warning in these results. They want to make changes to Medicare, and that, in the eyes of their Democratic opponents, is destroying Medicare. Even if everyone in the party dropped the Ryan plan like a hot potato, the Democrats would still run ads of Ryan as an axe-murderer perpetrating a retirement-home massacre. Republicans will need to find a way to effectively counter it, or they’ll lose a lot of seats in 2012.