02 April 2009

NY-20: The result that matters

We don't yet know who will fill Kirsten Gillibrand's former seat in the House -- the vote was so close that the final result will hinge on absentee ballots and court challenges, and will take some time to emerge. The broad implications for the parties, however, are clear enough. In a district where registration leans strongly Republican, and the Democratic candidate started 25 points behind, the final result was essentially a tie. RCP analyzes:

And the tea leaves we can see from either a narrow Republican win or a narrow Republican loss in this district aren't particular-ly good for Republicans. The parties battled to a draw here, but a draw is still an underperformance for Republicans.....if a party is going to sweep competitive House seats in the general election, one would expect it to perform well in the by-elections. Strong Democratic performances in various special elections from 2005-2008 and 1973-1974 presaged very good Democratic years. Republicans had good special election performances in 1993-1994 and 1979-1980. This is a small number of observations, but the trend is there. To be clear, this is a district the Republicans probably should have won with room to spare, even in a mediocre Republican year.

They didn't. In a way, this is the worst possible result for the Republicans. A blowout defeat would have been another push toward re-assessment of the party's present course, strengthening the hand of those who call for reform against those who respond by shouting them down and excommunicating them. A narrow Republican loss, and especially a narrow win, will have far less impact. Rather than spurring Republicans out of the quicksand, NY-20 will help them keep on pretending they aren't in it.


Anonymous Carol said...

This election was to replace a DEMOCRAT, and Obama won this district 5 months ago with 61% of the vote. People can pretend this is some sort of raging red district if they want, but it ain't. It's purple, and least these days. The Republican candidate was outspent and Obama threw himself behind the Democrat, although admittedly not until the last minute. Odd. Anyway, this is not a good result for the Dems either.

02 April, 2009 08:23  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Well, as noted at the end of this post, I really have no objection to Republicans telling themselves such things. It's their problem, not ours.

02 April, 2009 09:24  

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