All Eyes on Upstate N.Y. House Race

BY David Chalian  May 24, 2011 at 8:41 AM EDT

New York House Race; Campaign photos

Republican Jane Corwin, left, Democrat Kathy Hochul and Tea Party candidate Jack Davis are running for a New York House seat.

The Morning Line

It’s only been a little over six months since Republicans won control of the House by picking up 63 seats in a wave election. That election put the budget committee gavel in the hands of Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

Rep. Ryan probably wasn’t expecting to be on the ballot again so soon, but if Democrats score an upset victory in a special House election Tuesday in upstate New York, they’ll claim it was all about rejecting his budget plan and its controversial overhaul of Medicare.

Republicans are eager to remind reporters that if it weren’t for a former-Democrat-turned-Tea Party-third-candidate in the race, the contest wouldn’t be competitive.

There’s some truth in the spin from both parties. And in their more honest moments, Republican and Democrats involved in the race will admit as much.

New York’s 26th Congressional District stretches from Buffalo to the suburbs of Rochester and reliably swings Republican. It was one of only four congressional districts in the Empire State to vote for John McCain over Barack Obama in 2008. In his battle against Andrew Cuomo in 2010, Republican Carl Paladino won there with more than 60 percent of the vote despite getting walloped across much of the rest of the state.

Republican Assemblywoman Jane Corwin should have had this wrapped up long ago. Democrat Kathy Hochul, the Erie County clerk, seized on the House Republican budget plan and has used Corwin’s support for it as a cudgel for the past several months. Jack Davis, a once-conservative Democrat, is running as a Tea Party candidate.

The Buffalo News reports that a combined $9-$10 million has been spent by the candidates, the parties and outside interest groups in this race.

Former President Bill Clinton and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie recorded last minute robo calls to help get their voters to the polls Tuesday.

POLITICO and the Washington Post each provide a list of things to watch for as the results begin to come in after the polls close at 9 p.m. EDT.

To be sure, trying to glean real meaning or a national political trend from a single, special House race in upstate New York is a bit of a fool’s errand. Special House races get out-sized media attention because they fill the vacuum between election days and they give the winning party bragging rights and helps push its message.

Beyond that, they tend not to be useful barometers of where things are going. Remember, the Democrats did very well with some special elections in 2009 and 2010 before their November shellacking.

T-PAW’S ‘TIME FOR TRUTH’

Tim Pawlenty’s campaign slogan is “Time for Truth,” and the reality for Republican voters is that the 2012 GOP field may almost be set, making the former Minnesota governor one of the leading alternatives to nominal front-runner Mitt Romney.

Pawlenty launched his presidential campaign Monday at a town hall in Des Moines, Iowa, a decision that underscores the fact that his chances at claiming the GOP nomination will likely depend on whether he’s able to find electoral success in the first-in-the-nation caucus state.

A win in next February’s caucuses would no doubt give Pawlenty some positive headlines as well, but for the moment he’ll probably be happy with (most of) his coverage in the 24 hours that have passed since he became an official candidate.

Here are a few of the headlines and lead paragraphs from Pawlenty’s Iowa rollout:

Jeff Zeleny, the New York Times: “Pawlenty Declares Candidacy and Takes On Politically Popular Programs”

“Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota formally opened his bid for the Republican presidential nomination on Monday and presented himself as a candidate willing to confront tough political choices, pledging to reinvent or dismantle programs like ethanol subsidies, Medicare and Social Security to address the nation’s fiscal burdens.”

Philip Rucker, the Washington Post: “Tim Pawlenty announces presidential bid, offers himself as alternative to Romney”

“With the wide-open battle for the Republican presidential nomination solidifying, Tim Pawlenty moved quickly Monday to offer himself as the leading alternative to presumptive front-runner Mitt Romney and to seize the mantle of a tough, truth-talking fiscal conservative.”

Maeve Reston, the Los Angeles Times: “Tim Pawlenty formally announces run for presidency”

“Tim Pawlenty’s presidential campaign rests on this question: Will Republican voters itching for confrontation with President Obama deliver their nomination to a man who tends toward soft-spoken and bland?”

Jennifer Jacobs, the Des Moines Register: “Pawlenty addresses the ‘hard truth’ in Des Moines talk”

“After choosing Des Moines as his backdrop for officially announcing he’s running for president, Republican Tim Pawlenty pitched himself as a truth-telling straight-talker who would slash spending.”

Kevin Diaz, the Minneapolis Star Tribune: “Pawlenty jumps in: ‘I know what it takes’”

“Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty stood in front of 200 supporters on a rooftop terrace on Monday, with the sun-splashed golden dome of Iowa’s statehouse as the backdrop, and spoke the words he’s waited so long to say:

‘I’m Tim Pawlenty, and I’m running for President of the United States.’”

WARREN FOR SENATE?

With nearly two dozen Senate seats to defend in 2012, Democrats will have very few opportunities to go on the offense, but Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., is likely at the top of the short list of pick-up possibilities.

Jennifer Steinhauer and Binyamin Appelbaum of the New York Times report Tuesday that Democrats have their eyes on a potential challenger to Sen. Brown: Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard Law School professor selected by President Obama to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Steinhauer and Appelbaum write:

“In seeking to enlist Ms. Warren for a different campaign, Democrats are taking aim at two birds. They can lay the groundwork for a potential compromise over a different candidate to lead the new agency and, they hope, they can increase their chances of reclaiming Mr. Brown’s seat by sending against him a woman who has won considerable acclaim and popularity among liberals for taking on the financial industry.”

Democrats have been unsuccessful in their efforts to recruit a high-profile candidate to take on Sen. Brown, who has shown an ability to raise lots of campaign cash and a willingness to buck his party on issues such as last year’s repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

On Monday, Sen. Brown announced he would vote “no” on the House GOP budget proposal because he argued its plans to reform Medicare went too far.

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