Democrats are reading a lot into their unexpected win in the New York special election. The election was about Medicare reform, they say: voters roundly rejected the House Republican plan. Republicans are dismissing the defeat, citing special factors such as the split in their vote caused by a phony Tea Party candidate. After allowing for special factors, argues Michael Barone, the GOP still did worse than it should have, and the Medicare issue was one reason why. The GOP started this fight, but is not winning it. See also Dan Balz:

Democrats should not read too much into Tuesday's results. But it is the Republicans who have the most to learn from what happened there.

Republican leaders believe in their agenda and are not likely to back away from it just because they lost one House seat, particularly one that they could very well win back in 2012. But they have not yet won the argument over how best to deal with the country's fiscal problems. They have accepted the responsibility to propose. Now they will need to learn how to persuade.