Murphy Leads Narrowly in New York Special Election
Venture capitalist Scott Murphy (D) holds a 65-vote lead over state Assemblyman Jim Tedisco (R) in a special election in Upstate New York, a race cast as an early referendum on President Obama's economic stimulus package.
With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Murphy had 77,344 votes to Tedisco's 77,279. Somewhere between 6,000 and 10,000 military and absentee ballots remain uncounted, according to the Associated Press, and overseas absentee ballots will continue be accepted until April 13. In short, no winner will be declared any time soon.
According to a Republican source, there will be no recount, however. Instead election officials will complete a re-canvassing in which the voter rolls will all be checked to ensure a proper election. (Each vote cast would not be checked and then re-checked under such a scenario.)
Murphy, a political unknown at the start of a special election, focused almost exclusively in the campaign on his support for Obama and, specifically, the $787 billion economic stimulus plan pushed through Congress by the president.
Democratic National Committee Chair Tim Kaine (Va.) said that Murphy "embraced President Obama's message of change and his plans to fix our economy and create jobs, and as a result he stormed from more than 20 points down to winning a majority of votes cast tonight."
While Murphy embraced the bill as a job-creator for the Upstate, which has been saddled by a slowing economy for years, Tedisco wavered -- ultimately announcing that he would have opposed the bill and using the bonuses granted to AIG executives as evidence that his Democratic opponent was supporting business as usual in Washington.
National Republican Congressional Committee Chair Pete Sessions (Texas) ascribed the closeness of the contest to "the strength of Jim's campaign and the effectiveness of the Republican message of fiscal responsibility and accountability that Americans are demanding in the wake of the AIG scandal."
A series of three polls conducted for Siena College showed Murphy trailing by twelve points in late February, behind by four points in mid March and ahead by four points in a survey released late last week.
The Upstate district, which was held by Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand (D) until Gov. David Paterson chose her to fill a U.S. Senate vacancy, was widely seen as tilting slightly to Republicans who carried a 70,000 voter registration edge. Obama, however, carried the 20th congressional district last November and, according to polls done by both sides, remains a very popular figure there, particularly among independents.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs downplayed Obama's direct involvement in the race (and, for good reason, since the Democratic National Committee and the White House did not have a significant presence on television or in terms of voter contact) but noted that "regardless of the outcome, this is a district where...to even be competitive...demonstrates quite a bit."
If Tedisco ultimately comes up just short, Republicans are certain to see this race in hindsight as a missed opportunity. Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele had pledged to make the party competitive again in the Northeast and when Gov. David Paterson appointed then Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand to fill the New York Senate vacancy created by Hillary Rodham Clinton's ascension to head the State Department, the resultant special election was viewed as an electoral gift for the GOP.
The National Republican Congressional Committee spent heavily on this race -- upwards of $800,000 -- under the belief that the seat could be a major momentum-changer heading into the midterm elections. Even as the race's outcome remained uncertain, there was grumbling among some GOP strategists that the RNC should have spent down some of the $24 million they showed in the bank at the end of February on the race.
If, on the other hand, Murphy loses after all the absentees are counted, there is likely to be some discussion in Democratic circles that the Democratic National Committee, which spent a meager $10,000 on an ad in which Obama endorsed Murphy, and the White House did not do enough to bring their candidate across the line.
We'll obviously have much more on this race as developments warrant over the next few days.
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