There will be a lot of competing reactions on last night’s effective tie in NY-20, but for now, this point from Strategic Vision pollster David Johnson seems to be a good one: “It was a close thing with absentees probably bringing Tedisco over the line, but what is being overlooked is that Murphy’s numbers went down this weekend after the Democrats began using Obama and Biden in mailers and advertisements.”
Now, this doesn’t mean that Obama’s popularity has been seriously dented, or that the Blue Dog Democrats in Congress will be running away from him. What it means is what we had suspected in Georgia’s Senate runoff and Joseph Cao’s win in the post-2008 special election — that Obama’s popularity is not necessarily transferable to your average Democrat. Yes, Murphy seemed to lose ground in the final days, but he had been running as Obama’s guy throughout the campaign. Democrats are touting that the district has a huge Republican advantage in registered voters, while Republicans tout that Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand carried 62 percent just last year. It’s a purple district; Tedisco had higher name recognition, but Murphy had Gillibrand’s endorsement.
On the other questions — did supporting the stimulus help or hurt Murphy, or did the AIG bonus provision provide Tedisco with a useful attack line — the evidence is mixed. Populist rage didn’t backfire for the GOP candidate, but it doesn’t seem like a silver bullet.
The result won’t be the panic-button moment for Michael Steele’s reign at the RNC; in fact, with the race so close, Steele can argue that every penny the committee spent in the district was money well spent — would Tedisco be trailing by a lot more than 65 votes without that money?