The victory of a Democrat in the special election for a traditionally Republican congressional seat in New York is bad news for those who want to see budgetary reform:

Republican candidate Jane Corwin had endorsed a plan passed by GOP House members last month to overhaul Medicare, drawing attacks from her Democratic rival, Kathy Hochul….

Republicans outnumber Democrats in the district, and voters gave former Rep. Chris Lee, a Republican, 68% of the vote in November. The district also supported Republicans John McCain for president in 2008 and President George W. Bush in 2004.

While the outcome was complicated by a third-party candidate, members of Congress are sure to study the results for the role that the Republican Medicare proposal may have played in the race.

“We had the issues on our side-did we not have the right issues on our side?” Ms. Hochul said at her victory party, as supporters chanted “Medicare! Medicare!”

The Democrats have positioned themselves as champions of Medicare, and, if Republicans can’t do a better job of explaining their position, they are in trouble. The Medicare issue is easy to demagogue-the media that decried Sarah Palin’s discussions of death panels for granny won’t be bothered at all by Democratic ads featuring Republicans pushing granny off a cliff in her wheelchair. That’s the bad news (for the republic, not for granny, who won’t be affected if she is already on Medicare).

The Republicans have to find a very simple way to make two points: Nobody under 55 will be affected by the proposed changes to Medicare. For those under 55, yes, there will be changes-either from a Republican plan that preserves Medicare by transforming it into a voucher system or by the implosion of the system because Democrats refused to reform entitlements.

The election yesterday in New York shows that Republicans haven’t made that point.