What do the NY-26 special election results mean?
There are five key implications from Democrat Kathy Hochul’s upset victory over Republican Jane Corwin in New York’s 26th Congressional District last night.
First and foremost, the issue of Medicare could potentially determine the outcome of the 2012 election.
Indeed, the NY-26 special election appears to have been both a referendum on the Ryan Plan and a guide for the 2012 election campaign.
Hochul’s win in one of New York’s most conservative Congressional districts was a clear repudiation of the budget plan put forth by Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin -- which most Americans understand will eliminate both Medicare and Medicaid without offering any alternative.
It confirms the GOP’s worst fears that the Ryan Plan -- which called for the elimination of Medicare and its replacement with a voucher system -- could potentially cost them control of the House of Representatives in the 2012 election.
Second, the Democrats are going to make attacking the GOP over proposed cuts to Medicare one of the pillars of their 2012 campaign strategy.
By making Medicare the focus of her campaign, Hochul won the same district where GOP gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino garnered 63% of the vote in 2010 and where John McCain received 166,913 votes in 2008.
Thus, the clear takeaway for Democrats is that attacking Republicans for cutting Medicare is a winning campaign strategy.
Third, the Republicans remain unapologetic and are showing no inclination of abandoning the Ryan plan.
Fourth, it is highly unlikely that there will be any sort of balanced budget deal in the near future.
The Democrats no longer have an incentive to reach a balanced budget deal.
Put simply, now that the Democrats have seen how they can use polarization to their advantage, they no longer have a need for conciliation. It is very unlikely that they will propose any serious or meaningful cuts to federal spending, nor a clear path to rein in the debt and the deficit as a means of reaching a budget agreement.
Fifth, the election results hugely plays to President Obama’s advantage.
While the Obama administration has not been productive in terms of getting a deal, there are clear political benefits for having attacked the Ryan Plan during his budget speech last month as Representative Ryan sat in the front row.
Overall, the net result for all Americans will be more bad news.
Douglas E. Schoen is a political strategist and Fox News contributor. His most recent book is "Mad as Hell: How the Tea Party Movement is Fundamentally Remaking Our Two-Party System" published by Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins.