Got the NY-26 blues?

In today’s Wall Street Journal Karl Rove critiques the liberal notion that New York-26 proves that the Republican budget, including Medicare reform, is kryptonite for Democrats. Rove’s first point is that the victor in this heavily GOP district, Kathy Hochul, won a plurality, not a majority. Without a third party spoiler who claimed to be a Tea Party candidate, Hochul would almost certainly have gone down in defeat.

Still the question remains: Did the Medicare reforms proposed by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan and supported by Ms. Corwin play a role in the outcome? The answer is yes, though not with the blunt force and trauma some Democrats are claiming.

Polling by American Crossroads (an independent expenditure group with which I’m associated) showed that while Ms. Hochul’s Medicare attacks galvanized Democrats, they swayed few independents. Among voters who had an unfavorable view of Ms. Corwin, just 20% focused on Medicare, with most Democrats already voting for Ms. Hochul….

That’s not to say Medicare didn’t play an important role. Ms. Hochul pummeled Ms. Corwin over it. The GOP candidate did not respond with TV ads until the campaign’s closing week, and only then with an ad many voters thought lacked credibility. It alleged Ms. Hochul had endorsed Medicare and Social Security cuts that she claimed she had not.

An earlier, more aggressive explanation and defense of the Ryan plan would have turned the issue: 55% in the Crossroads survey agreed with GOP arguments for the Ryan reforms while just 36% agreed with the Democrats’ arguments against it.

Rove also takes note of an ugly incident in which Republican Jane Corwin’s campaign chief verbally accosted the third candidate in a parking lot contributed to an overall negative voter reaction to the Corwin effort. But here’s why I still have NY-26 blues: there is no way to prevent spoiler candidates from entering (nor should there be), and I fear we will be seeing more and more third party candidates, as intensity heats up.