Pete Davis’ Capital Gains and Games post on Tuesday about not being able to draw a conclusion about the results in the special election held in New York to fill the seat left vacant when Republican Chris Lee resigned is correct in the sense that (1) it was a special election and specials are never easy to analyze, (2) the tea party candidate had an impact on the outcome, and (3) the GOP plan to “change” (I’ll use that word instead of “cut” to avoid any hyperventilating by hyper partisans) Medicare can’t be completely blamed for the GOP loss.
But you don’t need an absolute conclusion; all you need is a strong hint and that’s why Pete’s not correct when he implies that the win by a Democrat who used the GOP Medicare plan as a cudgel against her opponent will have no impact on the ongoing budget debate in Washington. Congressional Republicans, who were already trying hard to walk away from the changes the House GOP endorsed in the fiscal 2012 budget resolution, are now very likely to change that walk into an all-out sprint.
Equally as important, the win by what at one time had been an underdog Democrat in NY 26 very likely will make a compromise on Medicare by Democrats before the 2012 election even less likely than it was before…and it wasn’t that likely to begin with. Democrats will see no value in letting Republicans off the hook on this issue. Without Medicare changes, the GOP isn’t likely (that is, if it ever was) to agree to making revenue part of a budget deal. They may be hurting from the Medicare plan but they’ll be dead if it’s Medicare + taxes.
One final note…The implication by some that the tea party candidate in the race was the reason for the GOP loss is no more than partially correct. The latest numbers I’ve seen show that the tea partyer got 9 percent of the vote while the Democrat won by 6 percent. You have to assume that virtually all of the tea party candidate’s vote would have gone to the Republican to make that leap. In reality, some of those voters would have stayed home rather than voted and, as polling over the past two weeks showed, some would have gone to the Democrat. As a result, while the race might have been much tighter,it’s not at all clear that the results would have been different if it was just a two-party contest.
Here’s Nate Silver’s truly excellent analysis of the race.