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NY-20: Tedisco By the Skin of His Teeth?

5:32 PM, Mar 31, 2009 • By MARY KATHARINE HAM
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In a match-up that will determine the trajectory of both political parties of the United States from this day forward until the Republic ceases to exist, early, sketchy, probably untrustworthy reports are that Tedisco may pull this one out.

At least one predicting a 3-point win for Tedisco, who pulled an all-nighter last night looking for the few votes that will decide the political future of the entire free world at 24-hour Wal-Marts.

One of the store's employees seemed surprised by the candidate's appearance in the middle of the night - and Tedisco was prepared with his trademark quip.

"If you want a job, you've got to ask for it," he said.

Tedisco said the late-night campaigning reminded him of his races for the state Assembly, when he brought a "clicker" around to count how many hands he shook in any given day. He didn't have his clicker with him tonight, but he was able to chat with about 60 people over several hours.

Mike Murphy's somewhat cryptic Tweet hints at an upset for the Republican, although the race was so close, calling either win a pure "upset" is pushing it. Conventional wisdom says a Republican should win back the right-leaning district, but it's been trending Democratic for several cycles. Moderate Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand knocked off the Republican incumbent in 2006 with a 6-point margin, which she improved to 24 points by 2008.

That said, Republicans are running a well-known state assemblyman in Tedisco to the Democrats' lesser-known venture capitalist Scott Murphy. Of course, that said, Murphy saw a 16-point swing in his favor in opinion polls between February and last week, based partly on Tedisco's overly cautious and confusing approach to the stimulus package:

He took too long to explain his position on the stimulus, then put all of his chips on the AIG bonus provision in the stimulus. Yes, Murphy had put himself in the situation of saying he would have supported a bill that included the provision, and refused to say whether he had read the bill. But Tedisco's criticism may have seemed like carping, particularly in a race where spending by both sides in this race was astronomical. Residents felt deluged by ads and may be more sensitive to negative ads than usual.

When it comes to the fall-out of this contest, pick your poison, folks:

It has become a battle over the economic stimulus (Murphy supports it, while Tedisco opposes it); in some form or fashion, it has featured national figures (Obama, Michael Steele, Sarah Palin, even Pat Boone); it will be an early test of the GOP's health in the post-Bush era (if Republicans can't win this slightly GOP-leaning district, where else can they win?); and it will be an early test of Obama's coattails (if the Democrats lose, Republicans will see it as a sign of the end of the president's honeymoon).

Some voters were disappointed that, despite being inundated with ads for the Epic Battle Over Post-Obama Talking Points, they were not able to vote in the contest that will decide the fate of humanity, because they don't actually live inside the district.

Such is the experience of untold numbers of Schenectadians today who find themselves left out of the hotly contested special election to fill the seat in the 20th Congressional District which, many were surprised to learn, doesn't include them.

Their confusion could perhaps be forgiven.

Jim Tedisco, the man Schenectady residents have sent to the state Assembly for the last 27 years, is the Republican vying for a Congressional seat against Democrat Scott Murphy.

While Tedisco's Assembly district includes parts of Schenectady County, the 20th Congressional District doesn't. Schenectady residents live in the 21st Congressional District.