Wednesday, May 25, 2011


You and I are celebrating Democrat Kathy Hochul's upset win in the special election for the House seat in New York's deep-red 26th congressional district. So how is covering it? Well, I understand leading with tornadoes, but check out the prominence of the NY-26 story on the Fox front page as of 8:45 A.M. -- I've highlighted the relevant headline (click to enlarge):

Yeah, it's that teeny-tiny headline highlighted in blue near the bottom, the one that says, "N.Y. Dem Wins House Seat in Heavily GOP District" -- and the link is to a wire service report. Fox didn't even generate its own content on this story.

There's nothing about the special election on the Fox Nation home page, either -- the lead item is about Sarah Palin, and there's no room for NY-26, though there is room for "God and Country Strong at 'American Idol' Finale" (well, it is cross-marketing).

So righties are in denial about Hochul's win and the impact it will have on the Medicare fight -- or, more likely, they're waiting for Frank Luntz or the Tarrance Group to tell them what key phrases they all need to use in unison to spin this in their direction.

I still worry, though, that they'll actually pull that off. If this is really killing them, I fear they'll find a way to change the terms of the debate. Democrats, of course, might change it for them by supporting Medicare cuts in budget negotiations (which they're threatening to do). But if they don't, I suspect Republicans will not so much repudiate Paul Ryan as supersede him, generating multiple ACORN/"Ground Zero mosque"-style distractions in the run-up to November 2012 while concocting and selling a new, fresh, wingnut-friendly but Medicare-vague budget message, whileputting Ryan in the political equivalent of witness protection.

Meanwhile, I think Republicans' equivalent to the Ryan budget is the Obama-Netanyahu dust-up, and I worry that, while we may not still be able to get an electoral benefit from the Ryan vote in the House eighteen months from now, Republicans will have the skills to use their distortion of Obama's "1967 borders" remark to peel off a few normally Democratic pro-Israel Jewish voters in key states, along with swing voters who can be terrified on foreign policy and "security." (I'm linking the two because last night, when I was waiting for results from NY-26, I switched over from MSNBC to Fox News and there, on Hannity, was Netanyahu himself. At least this week, he's their hero, their Paul Ryan.)

Sorry not to be cheerier. Hochul's win was a great win. I think it really is worrying the Republicans. But I've just seen Democrats struggle to sustain passion too many times, and I've seen Republicans sustain passion successfully -- and change the subject successfully -- too many times.

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