The Washington Post's Philip Rucker reports on the NY-26 special election, which will be held in 8 days:
Special congressional elections tend to be sleepy affairs, campaigns so condensed and out of step with the normal political calendar that they’re often missed. But they can be mirrors of the national moment, too, and that’s what’s happening in the suburbs of Buffalo and Rochester, where a race to fill a vacant U.S. House seat has turned into a referendum on the Republican plan to overhaul Medicare.[...]
Changing Medicare, the centerpiece of Ryan’s plan, is deeply unpopular across the country, according to public polls. The backlash to it in this economically struggling district, where registered voters are older than the national average, has turned an unusual three-way race into a dead heat. Changing Medicare, the centerpiece of Ryan’s plan, is deeply unpopular across the country, according to public polls. The backlash to it in this economically struggling district, where registered voters are older than the national average, has turned an unusual three-way race into a dead heat.
How does Rucker know that the race is a "referendum" on Ryan's Medicare plan? And how does he know the Medicare plan is what has made this race competitive? Well, he doesn't. That's Rucker's opinion. Oh, and Donald Trump's! As far as I can tell, no polls were conducted in NY-26 before April 5, when Ryan introduced his budget, so it's hard to know whether there was a correlation between the introduction of the GOP budget and a shift in the electorate.
Maybe the race is actually a referendum on a married Republican congressman's trawling Craigslist for sex with transgendered women. Or maybe it's another example of how the fractious upstate New York GOP has failed to pick a candidate that unites conservatives and moderates. Conservative David Bellavia was passed over as a Republican candidate, and is paying back the NY GOP by endorsing Democrat-turned-"Tea Party" candidate Jack Davis. And, if Google is any indication, Jane Corwin's pro-choice position on abortion has sparked a lot of interest:
This isn't to say that Medicare isn't playing a role in the race. It is the main line of attack by the Democrats against Corwin, and Corwin and Republicans haven't done a stellar job of punching back. But it's hard to know whether Medicare reform is what's made the race close or if other factors--a sex scandal, and a divided GOP--are playing more of a role.