The May 24 special election in western New York is being hyped by some pundits as a bellwether for the political popularity of the House Republicans budget. But as I noted the other day, the peculiarities of the three-way race between Republican Jane Corwin, Democrat Kathy Hochul, and Dem-turned-"Tea Party" candidate Jack Davis may make NY-26 election a poor test case. Nate Silver at the New York Times also cautions against reading too much into the special election, which he says "may be a special case."

Nevertheless, we got to see this morning during a televised debate how Hochul and Corwin handled themselves and the GOP budget (Davis didn't participate).

A taste of the rhetoric spouted by Hochul:

"You don't care about a 10-year-old girl with leukemia because she's got a pre-existing condition not being covered by health insurance. If you voted in support of the Ryan budget, you threw her under the bus."

Corwin replied that she supports providing coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. (House Republicans stated in their "Pledge to America" that they would fund high-risk insurance pools for people with pre-existing conditions.)

Hochul also hammered Corwin on Medicare, saying her Republican opponent wants to "leave seniors fighting on their own" for health care.

"That takes us back to 1965, when seniors were the largest group of people in poverty," said Hochul.

Asked about the the proposed House GOP Medicare reform, Corwin said: "If you look at what President Obama and the Medicare actuaries have determined, if we keep Medicare in the same plan as it is right now going forward, we're going to run out of money by 2029. Nobody will receive any benefits at that time."

"I think that's simply a scare tactic to tell our seniors that there will be nothing for them in 2029," Hochul replied. "That's not the truth."

"Actually, Kathy's the one with the scare tactic," Corwin shot back. "The reality is this doesn't eliminate Medicare."

The Congressional Budget Office predicts that Medicare will actually go bankrupt in 2021. According to Medicare actuaries, "Without corrective legislation… the assets of the [Medicare] trust fund would be exhausted within the next 7 to 19 years." So Corwin's date for Medicare's bankruptcy was actually a more optimistic view of its finances.

Corwin hit most of the talking points in defense of the Republicans' proposed Medicare reform: It doesn't affect those 55 and over, it preserves Medicare for younger generations, and it provides future seniors with the "opportunity to choose among several plans that provide a required level of services, and the government would pay that service directly... it would be more like Medicare Part D."

But Corwin never really counterpunched on Medicare. She never pointed out that Obama wants to cut Medicare's costs by having a board of 15 "experts" ration care.
Hochul conceded that "Medicare needs to be fixed," but she was never pressed by Corwin or the moderators on what she would do to fix it.
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