New York's Bizarro Congressional Election Results
Should Scott Murphy hold on to his lead and carry the day it should not come as any great surprise to most observers. The momentum seemed to be running in his favor for the last three weeks at least, and many have overestimated the conservative nature of the district he seeks to serve. True, the 20th -- containing largely rural farming areas such as Dutchess County -- is quite conservative compared to Manhattan, but it is still in the Northeast, where Republicans have been hunted to near extinction since 2006. The GOP's 70,000 advantage in voter registration in the district has been insufficient to deliver victories in the last two election cycles.
In the end, though, if Tedisco goes down to defeat, the blame will fall largely on his own campaign. When the candidates' names were first announced, early local polling gave him as much as a twenty point advantage and even the first Siena polls had him up by double digits. This lead was squandered by a team which seemed to stumble and fumble their way through the process, leaving several opportunities on the table. Jim ran most of the race as if he still had an insurmountable lead, avoiding the dreaded label of "going negative" and running on the issues even as Murphy gained traction.
Tedisco also gave his opponent a huge gift early on when he refused to answer "the question" (as it became known in endless Murphy TV spots) as to whether or not he would have voted for the Obama stimulus package. This refusal, which went on for three painful weeks, became the focus of the campaign. It was only made worse when, asked by a reporter why he wouldn't answer, the candidate defended himself thusly.
Mr. Tedisco said that if he answered the question, he would only encourage Mr. Murphy to pester him about other positions: "It won't just be this, it'll be, 'How would you vote on the war in Iraq?' Those are hypothetical."
That may well be the day the music died for the Tedisco lead in the polls.
In terms of missed opportunities, Jim never hit his opponent on guns -- a sensitive topic in the largely agricultural communities of the region. Murphy was clearly obfuscating on the stump when it came to Second Amendment questions, but his past held a ticking bomb. He had been working with Mel Carnahan in Missouri while the governor was running a stealth campaign to torpedo Proposition B, which would have required officials to provide concealed carry permits to deserving citizens. With all the money poured into Tedisco's race by both the state and national Republican parties, this never came up in the numerous ads they ran.
The general impression around the area was that Jim was simply reluctant to hit Murphy too fast or too hard and he wound up paying the price for it. Still, with the typical GOP advantage in military votes and ineffable trends of absentee ballots in general, Tedisco may take a seat in the People's House. But if he does, it won't be the resounding bellwether message that RNC Chairman Michael Steele had been hoping for.