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Lowered Expectations in NY-20?

By Ben Pershing

Voters are at the polls right now in New York's 20th district, where Democrat Scott Murphy and Republican Jim Tedisco are squaring off in the special election contest to replace appointed Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D) in the House.

Tedisco's campaign, especially in the closing days, has been heavily focused on his opposition to the economic stimulus package and on populist anger over the AIG bonus issue. Which sounds an awful lot like the message House Republican leaders have emphasized here in Washington. So is Tedisco's campaign a referendum on the effectiveness of the national GOP's message?

"No," House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said this morning. "I believe the race in New York today is going to be a close race. It's a Democrat seat. President Obama won this seat. ... So this is going to be a very close election. But it's between those two candidates up in New York, and I hope that Jim Tedisco wins."

It's true that Obama won the Albany-area district in November, 51 percent to 48 percent. But it was won by George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004, and was represented in the House by Republicans for several years before Gillibrand was elected in 2006. So the GOP has, or had, legitimate hopes of winning the seat today.

The party could still win. Yet recent polls have shown Murphy with a narrow lead, so GOP leaders are discouraging the suggestion that the contest has some larger meaning beyond the borders of the district. Of course, if Tedisco does succeed, Republicans may well change their tune tomorrow and see the larger meaning in the race after all. But for today, it's just between those two candidates.

By Ben Pershing  |  March 31, 2009; 11:07 AM ET
Categories:  2010 Campaign  
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