The GOP lost in yesterday’s special election for a House seat in upstate New York. Charlie Cook’s article last week on the race had some interesting advice on how we should view the race in the scheme of 2012:
To be honest, I take a perverse pleasure in watching a multitude of well-intentioned political observers weigh in on the “great significance” of this upstate House race to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of GOP Rep. Chris Lee.
In addition to other things, I have heard them talk about what it portends for the Medicare issue and the 2012 elections for the House nationwide.
It’s all nonsense.
For those who live outside the boundaries of the 26th District, the significance is this: If Democrats capture the seat, they will need a net gain of 24 seats to capture a majority and if Republicans hold the seat, Democrats will still need 25 seats. That’s it. Any grander conclusions are specious.
The vast majority of congressional elections are effectively fought between one Democrat, one Republican and perhaps a mishmash of unknown independent and third-party candidates that rarely make a difference in the outcome of the election.
In this Republican-leaning 26th District fight, there is one Democrat, one Republican and, oh, yes, a wealthy, abortion-rights, economic protectionist, former Republican, former Democrat, current tea partier, who ran for Congress in 2004, 2006 and 2008—spending a total of $5.2 million of his own money—and has already spent at least another $1.7 million in this race for Congress.
If anyone can find a race next year with a similar configuration, be my guest and apply the “lessons learned” from this race to that one. But implying that the outcome of this race portends anything about any conventional race next year amounts to cheap spin and drive-by “analysis” of the most superficial kind, which is sadly becoming all too prevalent in Washington. There are a lot of folks in D.C. who would be well-served switching to decaf.
John Fund disagrees and suggests in today’s Political Diary that the NY-26 election is a GOP wake up call:
Medicare was Ms. Hochul’s sole issue in the campaign, an she used every angle to bolster her claim that the budget passed by House Republicans and endorsed by her GOP opponent, Jane Corwin, would “essentially end Medicare.” One ad from a liberal group showed a menacing figure shoving an elderly woman off a cliff.
Before the polls closed yesterday in the Buffalo suburbs that make up the district, Ms. Corwin allowed that she should have addressed the Medicare issue “earlier and differently.” “I have to admit that when [Ms. Hochul] started making these comments, I thought these are so outrageous that probably no one would ever believe it . . .. Apparently some people did.”
Republicans will console themselves by saying that the presence of a former Democrat running on a tea party ballot line cost them the seat. Ms. Hochul only won 47% to 43%, receiving a lower percentage of the vote in the district than Barack Obama got in 2008.
But they dare not ignore the fact that Medicare proved to be a potent issue for Democrats. “This election is a wake-up call for anyone who thinks that 2012 will be just like 2010,” said Steven Law of the conservative group American Crossroads, which pumped $700,000 into the race to help Ms. Corwin. “It’s going to be a tougher environment. Democrats will be more competitive. And we need to play at the top of our game to win big next year.”
Some House Republicans will be rattled by the election result, as they should be. The district they just lost was once represented by Jack Kemp and has only elected three Democrats to Congress since it was formed in 1857.
On the 2012 front, Ragnar notes that Michele Bachman is out of the gate with a money bomb that, well, totally bombs. Reason collects some of the Gary Johnson vs. Ron Paul coverage in this post. Shelby Steele has an interesting column at WSJ on Obama’s Unspoken Re-Election Edge:
Many of the Republican presidential hopefuls should be able to beat President Obama in 2012. This president has a track record now and, thus, many vulnerabilities. If he is not our “worst president,” as Donald Trump would have it, his sweeping domestic initiatives—especially his stimulus package and health-care reform—were so jerry-built and high-handed that they generated a virtual revolution in America’s normally subdued middle class.
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And yet Republicans everywhere ask, “Who do we have to beat him?” In head-to-head matchups, Mr. Obama beats all of the Republican hopefuls in most polls.
The problem Mr. Obama poses for Republicans is that there has always been a disconnect between his actual performance and his appeal. If Hurricane Katrina irretrievably stained George W. Bush, the BP oil spill left no lasting mark on this president. Mr. Obama’s utter confusion in the face of the “Arab spring” has nudged his job-approval numbers down, but not his likability numbers, which Gallup has at a respectable 47.6%. In the mainstream media there has been a willingness to forgive this president his mistakes, to see him as an innocent in an impossible world. Why?
There have really always been two Barack Obamas: the mortal man and the cultural icon. If the actual man is distinctly ordinary, even a little flat and humorless, the cultural icon is quite extraordinary. The problem for Republicans is that they must run against both the man and the myth. In 2008, few knew the man and Republicans were walloped by the myth. Today the man is much clearer, and yet the myth remains compelling.
Yesterday, Jacob Sullum discussed some model legislation we should all get behind:
Today the Institute for Justice and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers unveiled “model state legislation” that abolishes the practice of civil asset forfeiture by requiring the government to convict people before taking property linked to their alleged crimes. The bill (PDF) cuts to the heart of the injustices associated with forfeiture laws that bizarrely accuse the property, rather than its owner, of wrongdoing. Even when states officially allow innocent owners to reclaim their property, the process is often so cumbersome and expensive that they surrender to state-sanctioned theft. Furthermore, states typically allow the law enforcement agencies that initiate a forfeiture to keep much or all of the proceeds for their budgets, giving police and prosecutors an incentive to target people based on the value of their property rather the seriousness of their crimes. The I.J./NACDL would do away with that practice as well.
Despite reforms prompted by numerous reports of outrageous forfeiture abuses, a 2010 I.J. study, Policing for Profit, gave only three states—Maine, North Dakota, and Vermont—a grade of B or better.
For our video selection, check out Rand Paul on the Patriot Act Extension:
Paul Gessing of the Rio Grande Foundation has a column up at NMPolitics.net declaring that Federalism is key to America’s future:
Federalism, at least as conceived by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution, meant that the central government in Washington had a few, strictly-limited powers, but that an overwhelming majority of what was to be done was to be left to the states and people.
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To say that we have strayed far from this concept over the past 225 years or so would be an understatement. Federal policies now dictate state actions in education, health care, environmental policy, and a wide variety of other regulatory powers (to name just a few).
Paul also has a good blog post at Errors of Enchantment on 50 Years of Economic Growth: who wins, loses, and why?
So much of what policymakers and economic development experts get caught up in involves short-term economic gains. But what about the long-term? Well, in terms of the US economy, 50 years is a pretty long time, so this new report on personal income growth over the past 50 years is of interest.
Check out the whole thing.