THE MORNING LINE -- May 25, 2011 at 8:50 AM ET
Democrat Hochul Pulls Upset Win in New York House Race
Democrat Kathy Hochul won Tuesday's special election in New York. Photo by Alan Bedenko/Buffalo Pundit via Flickr.
In a decisive victory Tuesday, Democrat Kathy Hochul defeated Republican Assemblywoman Jane Corwin, 47 percent to 43 percent, in a heavily GOP congressional district.
The House Republican budget plan authored by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., became a focal point in the election as Corwin defended her support for it and Hochul, the Erie County clerk, played up her opposition to the plan's unpopular restructuring of Medicare for those 55 and younger.
Jack Davis, a wealthy businessman who poured more than $2 million into his campaign, ran as a third party candidate on the Tea Party label and emerged with 9 percent of the vote. He had run as a Democrat in previous attempts at this House seat, and his presence in this special election certainly helped what should have been a slam dunk for Republicans become a competitive contest in the closing weeks of the campaign.
After spending the last two years on the defensive over the stimulus, health care and cap and trade, Democrats seem to have found an opening to play some offense using the Ryan budget, specifically its proposal to shift Medicare from a system where the government directly reimburses doctors to one where subsidies are provided to seniors and payments are made through private insurance companies.
To give you a sense of this Republican slice of New York: John McCain defeated President Obama in this district, 52 percent to 46 percent, in 2008. And despite Andrew Cuomo's 63-33 statewide trouncing of Carl Paladino in the governor's race last year, Paladino won here with more than 60 percent of the vote. Former Rep. Chris Lee won the district with 73 percent of the vote in 2010, just a couple of months before his infamous shirtless photo emerged, which led to his resignation and Tuesday's special election.
"Kathy Hochul's victory tonight is a tribute to Democrats' commitment to preserve and strengthen Medicare, create jobs, and grow our economy," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. "And it sends a clear message that will echo nationwide: Republicans will be held accountable for their vote to end Medicare."
Perhaps the most interesting statement hitting our inboxes Tuesday night came from American Crossroads, the Republican-allied outside group founded by Karl Rove. Unlike the House Republican campaign committee, which sought to play off the race as a total fluke because of the presence of a third party candidate, American Crossroads CEO Steven Law said the results were a wake-up call for the GOP:
In statement that should help rustle up some donations for his group, Law said:
"The debate over whether Medicare mattered more than a third-party candidate who split the Republican vote is mostly a partisan Rorschach Test. What is clear is that this election is a wake-up call for anyone who thinks that 2012 will be just like 2010. 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."
It's somewhat dangerous to over-interpret the results of one special election. In fact, Democrats scored several special election victories in New York and Pennsylvania in the 2009-2010 cycle before losing 63 seats to Republicans in the November midterm elections.
Tuesday night's victory for the Democrats has far less to do with foreshadowing what may happen in November 2012 and far more to do with this moment in time. It'll cause Republicans to fret more publicly about the political dangers of supporting Rep. Ryan's budget and provide a confidence boost to Democrats who see a path to woo back seniors and independents who abandoned them during last year's drawn out health care battle.
Those are not insignificant ramifications, but they're far from determinative for 2012.
NO GOOD OPTIONS
The American people see no good options when it comes to raising the debt ceiling.
A poll released Tuesday by the Pew Research Center and the Washington Post found a vast majority who said they were either very or somewhat concerned that raising the debt ceiling would lead to higher spending (77 percent) and that not raising the borrowing limit would force the country into default and hurt the economy (73 percent).
Forced to choose which was of greater concern, 48 percent picked increasing the borrowing limit (and higher spending, more debt) while 35 percent selected not raising the debt ceiling (and causing a default, hurting the economy).
The results show just how big a pickle lawmakers really are in when it comes to raising the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling by the Aug. 2 deadline. Leaders in both parties have said the limit must be raised so the country can continue borrowing to pay its bills. At the same time, members of Congress are especially wary of being seen as endorsing additional spending given the rising public discontent with the size of government over the last few years.
Vice President Joe Biden and a bipartisan group of six House and Senate leaders met Tuesday on Capitol Hill for the fourth round in a series of talks aimed at reaching an agreement on spending cuts as part of a deal to raise the debt limit.
Following the two-and-a-half hour session, Mr. Biden said the group was headed in the right direction. "I think we're in a position where we'll be able to get to well above $1 trillion [in cuts] pretty quick," he told reporters.
Vice President Biden also said he made clear to Republicans that tax increases must not be excluded from the compromise. "Revenues have to be in the deal," he said.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., told reporters that raising taxes remained a non-starter for GOP lawmakers. "The House will not support tax hikes," he said.
Away from the closed-door meeting, the political posturing on spending kicked into high gear as House Republicans announced they would hold a vote next week on a measure to raise the debt ceiling by $2.4 trillion without any spending cuts attached to prove that a "clean" bill has no hopes of passing.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Republicans were hurting the process by bringing up a bill they know will fail. "I can't think of a way that is much more irresponsible than bringing up an extension...just to show it can't pass. That's not very good, I don't think," he told reporters.
Showing that he isn't above holding votes to score political points, Sen. Reid announced the Senate would vote on Rep. Ryan's budget proposal in the next day or two.
The proposal is destined to fail in the Senate, with four Republicans already on record saying they will oppose it. By bringing the measure up for a vote, Sen. Reid is hoping to highlight those divisions within the GOP and give Democrats a campaign tool to use next fall against Republicans who choose to vote in favor of the plan.
There will be more talk about spending, debt and deficits in Washington Wednesday as the Peter G. Peterson Foundation hosts its 2nd Annual Fiscal Summit dubbed "Solutions for America's Future."
As part of the day-long program, the NewsHour's Gwen Ifill will interview former President Bill Clinton at 10 a.m. EDT and Judy Woodruff will moderate a panel with the five remaining members of the Senate's "Gang of Six" at 2:30 p.m. EDT.
OBAMA EXPECTS 'SLOW, STEADY PROCESS' IN LIBYA
At their joint news conference at Lancaster House in London, President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron said they are committed to keeping the pressure on Moammar Gadhafi and his regime in Libya but remain firm in their refusal to send ground troops to help accomplish the goal of his removal from power.
"We are strongly committed to seeing the job through making sure that at minimum Gadhafi doesn't have the capacity to send in a bunch of thugs to murder innocent civilians and to threaten them," President Obama said.
"David and I both agree that we cannot put boots on the ground in Libya. Once you rule out ground forces then there are going to be some inherent limitations to our air strike operations...I think there may be a false perception that there are a whole bunch of secret super effective air assets in a warehouse somewhere that can be pulled out and immediately solve the situation," he added.
"This is going to be a slow, steady process in which we are going to be able to wear down the regime forces," Obama said after declaring that "enormous progress" has been made and lives have been saved because of U.S. and coalition efforts.
The Department of Justice has signaled the U.S. government can proceed with the prosecution of former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards for allegedly violating campaign finance laws in an attempt to keep secret his affair with a campaign videographer.
The development was first reported by ABC News.
The network's James Hill reports:
"A source close to the case said Edwards is aware that the government intends to seek an indictment and that the former senator from North Carolina is now considering his limited options. He could accept a plea bargain with prosecutors or face a potentially costly trial.
"Edwards has been the focus of a lengthy federal investigation focusing on hundreds of thousands of dollars allegedly provided by two wealthy supporters. The government will contend those were illegal donations that ultimately went to support and seclude his mistress, Rielle Hunter."
Edwards admitted last year he is the father of Hunter's daughter, who is now 3 years old, but has steadfastly denied he broke the law.
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