House Speaker John Boehner’s trip to Western New York today to support Jane Corwin in her effort to hold a seemingly safe seat for the Republicans is just the latest indication that he and his party understand what is at stake in the special election to replace Congressman Christopher Lee. Lee was forced to resign after he posted a shirtless photo of himself on the Internet while trolling for women. But though the married politician’s mind-numbingly stupid act subjected the political class to yet more scorn for their morals, it was not supposed to affect the political balance of power, let alone serve as a staging point for a Democratic revival.
But the confluence of the special election set for May 24 and the divisive debate over House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s plan to overhaul Medicare as part of an overall effort to deal with the nation’s debt crisis has encouraged Democrats to believe that they can swipe New York’s 26th district, a seat that has been safely Republican for decades. A Siena College poll of likely voters released on April 29 showed GOP candidate state assemblywoman Jane Corwin with a lead of 36 percent to 31 percent over Erie County clerk Kathy Hochul, the Democrat. Adding to the GOP’s woes is the presence on the ballot of Jack Davis, a former Democrat running on the Tea Party line. The poll showed Davis getting 23 percent.
Hochul has appeared to make progress in recent weeks by attacking Corwin for her support of Ryan’s proposals. The Democrats are going all out to label the Ryan panel as a heartless Republican plot to hurt seniors while ignoring the fact that, as a Washington Post editorial noted yesterday, the Obama administration’s own plans for Medicare are far more draconian. Demagoguery on entitlements is nothing new in politics but given the growing national consensus that something must be done about Medicare before it bankrupts the health care system and the nation, the Democrats’ opportunism here is particularly loathsome.