Posted by Brad @ 6:55 pm on March 13th 2009

NY-20: Now Tedisco is Running Away From Steele

So, to sum up. NY-20 is a Republican-leaning district in terms of registration, but it voted for Obama and has sent a Democrat, who remains very popular, to Washington. That Democrat, Kirsten Gillibrand, is now the junior Senator from New York, and her seat will hold a special election on March 31st to replace her (unlike Senate vacancies, which are too important for the people to decide, House vacancies are not filled by the governor). Jim Tedisco, the state minority leader, is the Republican candidate, Scott Murphy, businessman and political neophyte, is the Democratic candidate. Since there’s no other races going on right now, the race has gotten a lot of attention, and both the Republican and Democratic national committees have been pumping in money and surrogates. Both candidates will have received, as of writing, over a million dollars, and that’s not including the surrogate advertising that PACs or the DCCC or what have you have been running.

Tedisco started the race 25 points ahead, then, in only the last 10 days or so, that went to 12, then 7, now 4.

As I said, this is a race that both national parties have been pumping money and attention into. That’s not unusual. But it also coincides with something of a crisis in leadership at the Republican National Committee, as Steele has spent the last few weeks getting tarred and feathered. This race has turned into a proxy battle for the war between the two parties. The Republicans had hoped to make this race a referendum on Barack Obama and the stimulus, hopefully a data point on their sell that they’ve been on the upswing, and the Democrats hoped to win with the idea that it would be another feather in their “mandate” cap. However, one of the proxy wars that’s been spun off from that is the war at the RNC, wherein committee members have now begun openly suggesting that if the RNC chairman can’t retain that seat, he shouldn’t retain his. Hard to say how much muscle is behind that threat, but either way, the math is pretty simple. Not only is the actual seat at stake, but a degree of political momentum for the winning party, and, if the Republicans lose, a power vacuum.

Today, as I mentioned in a comment, Steele decided to double down on the race for about the fifth time.

The Republican National Committee (RNC) today announced it is transferring $100,000 to the New York Republican State Committee.

“The RNC is proud to make an investment in our state parties and hard working grassroots. These funds will be used to show our commitment to re-establishing a strong GOP presence in the Northeast. Our party is devoting the energy and resources necessary to win the special election in New York’s 20th Congressional district,” said Chairman Michael Steele.

The NEW news is the reaction that engendered from the guy who has become in some ways one of the smallest players in the race—the Republican frontrunner. In response to the $100,000 check, Tedisco didn’t turn it down, but did decide to use it as an opportunity to throw the RNC itself under the bus.

Reacting to his Democratic opponent’s surge in the polls, Tedisco said Thursday he’s taking control of the content of his advertising from the National Republican Congressional Committee.

“I’m taking over and we’re going to run a campaign that relates to the people of the 20th Congressional District,” he said.

The first depiction of “the real Jim” will air in a new television commercial set to debut this evening, he said. […]

Tedisco blamed his drop in the poll on an advertising strategy that has focused heavily on attacking his Democratic opponent.

Tedisco said going forward the content of his ads will be more positive with him making the decisions instead of the national party.

“We’re going to run a 20th District campaign and talk about the positive issues, and leave the rest of the distortions to the other side,” he said.

But the actual press conference was even starker.

“The biggest change is that we are now going to be running our campaign from Albany. I’ll be fully in charge of it.”

“Those individuals out in Washington understand government and politics, but they don’t understand the people of the 20th congressional district as well as I think I do, and the people on my staff.”

Now, this isn’t a bad move per se on Tedisco’s part, but it doesn’t bode well for the Republican war machine. What Tedisco is doing is basically trying to avoid having this be a proxy referendum involving the Republican party generally and Michael Steele specifically. A little late for that, I think, but the fact that he responded to the news of his massive slipping in the poll with a press conference essentially blaming it on his own national party committee sure is interesting.

Not that he isn’t taking the money.

Here’s the bad news for the GOP.

If they win, they won’t get any credit for it (unless its a blowout). They should have won anyway.

But if they lose, not only is Steele in hot water, but it’s hard for the Republican party to claim that they are on the people’s side in their pushback against Obama, or that they’re on the vanguard of a national buyer’s remorse, or whatever. If that were to happen, NY-20 is the sort of district we might see it in; but the opposite appears to be the case. Tedisco is slipping in the polls because the Independents switched, from +14 Tedisco to +7 Murphy, and what seems to have precipitated that switch was the effort by both parties to make this more about the national political dogfight and less about the district. Both the RNC and DNC have turned the district into a national war of the national parties, and when that happened, the middle voters all started flocking Dem. Tedisco has had no problem running against Obama or bringing in guys like Newt Gingrich to argue that we need Tedisco in office to stave off the stimulus, but now that he’s sees where that’s gotten him, he’s shaking up his entire campaign message and explicitly and very publicly casting it off and even going out of his way to reject it.

I’ve got to say, I wasn’t much interested in this race at first, but it keeps getting better and better. Besides, I need something to tide me over until Kentucky.

1 Comment »

  1. I would have thought those six Republican senators coming out against Chas Freeman would have moved the country strongly in the Republican direction.

    I guess not.

    Comment by daveg — 3/14/2009 @ 10:51 am

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