Back in April, a little special election in Wisconsin became a proxy war for Republicans' and Democrats' fight over union power. Now next week's special election to Rep. Chris Lee has become a proxy war over Medicare. The race, in one of New York's most conservative districts, has become surprisingly competitive as Democrat Kathy Hochul hammers Republican Jane Corwin over Paul Ryan's plan to overhaul entitlements, and Tea Party candidate Jack Davis takes votes from Corwin. Outside groups, like Karl Rove's American Crossroads, have poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into ad campaigns in the district, and an army of Republican Capitol Hill staffers are headed upstate to get out the vote, Roll Call's Steve Peoples reports.
The Washington Post's Philip Rucker writes that the race is "the formula Democrats plan to use next year, when Republicans will face voters for the first time after backing" the Ryan plan. "Thus, what happens here ahead of the May 24 election will set the terms for both parties' campaign playbooks heading into the 2012 battle for control of the House and Senate."
Stu Rotherberg now rates the race as tilting Democratic. He notes that conservative attacks have cost Davis support, but his supporters are not flocking to Corwin, "raising new doubts about the Republican's ability to grow her support in the final week." He adds that Hochul's Medicare attacks "apparently have made it difficult for Corwin to attract disaffected Davis voters." The New Republic's Jonathan Chait finds it significant that "Jack Davis's support is dropping, yet Jane Corwin still seems to be trailing. ... If Kathy Hochul can win in this heavily Republican district without a huge third-party boost, that's a hugely auspicious sign for Democrats."