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04/01/09: Republicans Win Big in NY-20!

ny20.thumbnail.jpgRNC Chair Michael “Mad Rhymes” Steele:

"With over 5,000 absentee and military ballots still left to count, this race is far from over. We are confident that the Republican advantage in these absentee and military ballots can put Jim Tedisco over the top, and the Republican Party will do everything in its power to make sure all lawful votes are counted."

"We are proud of Jim Tedisco and his campaign. Together, and in partnership with the Tedisco campaign, the New York Republican Party, the Republican National Committee and National Republican Congressional Committee went toe-to-toe with the Obama Democratic machine that looked invincible in the Northeast just a few months ago and showed that our party can and will be competitive in areas of the country where our party hasn’t won recently."

"President Obama, Senator Clinton, Eliot Spitzer and Chuck Schumer all won this district, and a Democrat won the last two congressional races. The fact we are in a dead heat race in NY-20 means we are making progress as a Party standing firm for fiscal responsibility."

And, Glenn “Wrap-Master” Reynolds:

APRIL 1, 2009
THE EMPEROR HAS NO COATTAILS. “The left-leaning media and blogs are declaring it a huge defeat for the GOP. Considering it was their seat they were defending and Obama apparently has no coattails, that’s some unique spin.” I expect it to be widely repeated, though.

I had to leave the date in there (as it is—bolded—in the original post) because this is an April fools’ joke. . . right?

To recap:

• Eight weeks ago, Democrat Scott Murphy was a complete unknown in this district.

• Jim Tedisco, on the other hand, is an upstate institution.

• Republicans outnumber Democrats in NY-20 by a three-to-two margin—some 70,000 votes.

• Prior to Kirsten Gillibrand winning in the Democratic Sweep Year of 2006, this district was in Republican hands for seven terms. In other words, since being redrawn as a safe Republican district in 1992, until the Gillibrand win, it was always represented by a Republican.

• After weeks of hemming and hawing, Tedisco came out against the Recovery Act, declaring that his candidacy was all about standing against the president’s agenda.

• The RNC went all in on this one. I only wish I had time to grab all the clips of Republicans declaring this either a referendum on Obama or a referendum on Michael Steele’s leadership of his party. Plus the parade of luminaries (such as they are) that went up to campaign and fundraise for Tedisco. . . oh, and then there was the requisite noun-verb-9/11 ad. . . I could go on.

To quote Josh Kraushaar and Charles Mahtesian at The Politico:

There’s no winner yet in the Upstate New York special election, and it might be mid-April before the race is settled. But a few things are clearer after Tuesday’s contest, none of it welcome news to the Republican Party.

. . . .

Republicans made this race a referendum on President Barack Obama, his stimulus plan and big government policies. But voters divided almost exactly down the middle, showing almost no sign they wanted to brush back the new administration. And this is precisely the kind of place where it would have been obvious had voters been so inclined — a Republican-leaning, small-town district that voted for Obama in 2008.

. . . .

[I]f the party can’t win with a [70,000 voter] head start. . . on the heels of the AIG bonuses furor and a massive expansion of federal spending, where can it win?

For that reason Republicans bet heavily on the race, with Republican National Committee Michael Steele pumping money and resources into the district, and the National Republican Congressional Committee pouring in $818,000 on top of that. Their efforts were aided by conservative groups, led by the National Republican Trust PAC, which spent an additional $819,000.

Now for the no-April-fooling part:

Republicans are still all-in on this race. The motion filed on behalf of Tedisco, reported here yesterday, was not your average, run-of-the mill, protect our candidate’s butt sort of petition. This motion tried to preemptively block certification of Murphy, should Tedisco’s opponent come out ahead. The judge spotted some of that language, and crossed it out, but he didn’t spot it all. The badly drafted motion also tries to constrain recount monitors to members of the Republican Party or “conservative.”

None of that will hold up in court, I expect, but it will have to be challenged in court. . . and therein you see the Republican’s “electoral” strategy.

Need proof? Jeremy Jacobs highlights a GOP fundraising email that went out this morning:

“Democrats have almost succeeded in stealing the election in Minnesota and seating Al Franken,” wrote Guy Harrison, the National Republican Congressional Committee’s executive director. “We cannot allow them to manipulate electoral results to seat another tax-troubled liberal.”

The e-mail indicates Republicans are gearing up for a legal fight over the election results, and suggests the party will pursue a more aggressive legal battle than in Minnesota. In that contest, Coleman was initially up after Election Day but Franken was able to overtake his lead in the recount and legal process.

The Franken-Coleman race is not the exception, it is the rule.

And not even the new rule.

It is true that this race, as it stands at this writing, is too close to call. The raw vote has Murphy ahead by several dozen votes with close to 6,000 absentee ballots still to be counted.

The Republicans are now clinging to those absentee ballots. . . and to the overseas ballots yet to arrive. . . the overseas and military ballots. Why the additional distinction? Because Republican lawyers and spokes-folks have been making it all day. Why? It might just sound good, but my guess is that they recall how military ballots became a wedge issue, a productive R talking point, during the 2000 Florida recount.

Like I said: the rule, and not a new one.

All of which is to say that the race isn’t over, and races, in general, if at all close, will not be over on election day for many election days to come.

* * *

Cillizza is reporting that Democratic assessments of the distribution of absentee ballots has Murphy winning by 210 votes when all the counting is done.

That’s still a narrow margin, so that likely means a legal battle. If you want to help, here is an Albany Project Act Blue page.

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Gregg Levine

Gregg Levine