Charlie Cook on next week's special election in western New York:

In this Republican-leaning 26th District fight, there is one Democrat, one Republican and, oh, yes, a wealthy, abortion-rights, economic protectionist, former Republican, former Democrat, current tea partier, who ran for Congress in 2004, 2006 and 2008—spending a total of $5.2 million of his own money—and has already spent at least another $1.7 million in this race for Congress.

If anyone can find a race next year with a similar configuration, be my guest and apply the “lessons learned” from this race to that one. But implying that the outcome of this race portends anything about any conventional race next year amounts to cheap spin and drive-by “analysis” of the most superficial kind, which is sadly becoming all too prevalent in Washington. There are a lot of folks in D.C. who would be well-served switching to decaf.

Read the whole thing here. For a taste of the "cheap spin and drive-by 'analysis'" that Cook is talking about, see this Washington Post news story calling NY-26 a "referendum on the Republican plan to overhaul Medicare." Like Cook, Nate Silver at the New York Times has also cautioned against reading too much into the race.

The House GOP plan to reform Medicare may hurt Republicans a lot, a little, or not at all in 2012. Paul Ryan himself has said he doesn't know what the political consequences of his budget will be. He does know entitlement reform is necessary to avert a debt crisis.

But Cook is right. Given the peculiarities of the NY-26--a divided GOP that's tarnished by a congressman who resigned in disgrace--it would be foolish to call the race a bellwether or a referendum on Medicare reform.

(Hat tip: Dave Weigel)

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