Though the New York Times article doesn’t get around to the presence of the Tea Party’s Jack Davis being a major factor in the closeness of the NY-26 race in upstate New York until the very end of the article, they’re not wrong in writing that Paul Ryan’s Medicare privatization plan, since shelved by the GOP, has become an anchor for the Republican candidate Jane Corwin:

After leveling a barrage of attacks against the proposal put forth by Mr. Ryan, the Democratic candidate, Kathy Hochul, has tightened the race considerably, even as her Republican opponent remained supportive of the plan, perhaps out of concern that distancing herself from it would alienate conservatives […]

“The Republican vote to end Medicare has moved the needle in this race,” said Representative Steve Israel of Long Island, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “The Republican should be running away with this. Instead, she is clinging to a minuscule lead.” […]

The House Republican plan to fundamentally revamp Medicare has resonated in the 26th District, where a majority of registered voters are 45 or older. The district, which stretches from the western suburbs of Rochester, through dairy farming country, to small villages and towns northeast of Buffalo, is one of New York’s more conservative regions, with roughly 30,000 more registered Republicans than Democrats.

Two things here. One, you see how these older districts present a real problem for Republicans. On the one hand, demographically speaking they should represent a source of support. On the other, the vote to end Medicare has residents spooked. The NYT highlights the Siena poll that showed opposition to cutting Medicare in the district by a 59-38 margin.

Second, the dynamic on Corwin they spell out, who must protect her right flank because of the presence of Jack Davis by defending privatizing Medicare, while facing assault from her left flank for it, is a very familiar one, and shows the real long-term electoral problem for Republicans. Their base has moved them sharply to the right, but the majority of voters are not in the same place. Corwin is reduced to targeting Davis for being a former Democrat who endorsed President Obama. That may be effective enough to lower Corwin’s vote total, but she remains leashed to a deeply unpopular plan to end Medicare.

According to Think Progress, there have been two subsequent polls of the race since last week’s Siena poll. An internal for Kathy Hochul shows a dead heat. And a poll by Global Strategy Group has Corwin up by just 1 point. The special election is May 24, and Republicans are in a fair bit of trouble. There’s a debate next week.

David Dayen

David Dayen

1 Comment