StanCollender'sCapitalGainsandGames Washington, Wall Street and Everything in Between



Disagreeing With Pete On Medicare And New York 26

25 May 2011
Posted by Stan Collender

Pete's post from yesterday 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.

The Republican had a big lead

The Republican had a big lead until she endorsed the Ryan plan to "change" medicare. In Nov 2010, the Republican received 74% of the vote. Republicans have held that district for 100 years. This was a solid rejection of Ryan's plan to "change" medicare, at least using the arguments put forth by Republicans when Brown won the Senate seat in Mass.

But let's hope the Republicans don't see it that way and continue to endorse Ryan's plan to "change" medicare.


The issue that matters to

The issue that matters to behavior on Capitol Hill is not whether there is some true but unknowable formula of influence that determined the outcome of the NY-26 race. The issue that matters to behavior is what lawmakers of either party discern from the results. In that sense, Davis's contrarian argument - however true - doesn't matter to behavior. Your argument is the conventional one, and elected officials are notoriously shy of straying from conventional wisdom about electoral outcomes. (They will, of course, stray from conventional wisdom, scientific truth, common sense or logic at the drop of a campaign check, if doing so seems unlikely to cost votes.)


One point that gets lots of

One point that gets lots of mention just for the fun of it, but is not included in most analysis of the vote calculus, is that the off-cycle vote in NY-26 was necessitated by the former incumbent being shamed out of office. I mention this because Ensign's seat has been filled by a GOP House member, who's House seat will be filled by a special election this summer. Ensign, of course, was also partly shamed out of office. How many votes are moved by the jackass factor?




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