As you likely know, on Tuesday a special election will be held in New York’s 20th congressional district to replace now-Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). The race pits New York State Assembly Minority Leader Jim Tedisco against Scott Murphy, a venture capitalist.
At the start, national Democrats were not eager to get heavily engaged in this race. The 20th is a Dem-trending but still basically Republican district. George W. Bush carried the district in 2000 and 2004, though Obama won it by a solid margin in 2008. And it was long represented by Republicans until Gillibrand beat scandal-plagued Rep. John Sweeney (R) in 2006.
So it was the kind of race where there was more for Obama and the Dems to lose than gain since a victory would not necessarily make headlines and a defeat, especially if the national Dems seriously engaged, could be spun as the beginnings of a resurgence for Republicans or evidence of deterioration for Obama.
But over the last several weeks, Tedisco, who seemed like the odds-on, though not overwhelming favorite, watched his lead slip away. And the most recent polls suggest that Murphy has opened a minuscule lead.
As interesting to me is that the fact that Murphy, far from charting an independent course in this Republican-or-swingish district, has based his campaign on two things: support of Obama and support of the Stimulus plan. Murphy’s latest mailer tells voters: “On Tuesday, you can help President Obama,” by electing Scott Murphy.
Tedisco, meanwhile, has been reduced to framing his campaign around the intricate claim that Murphy supports the AIG bonuses because Murphy supports the Stimulus bill and the Stimulus Bill didn’t contain the retroactive limits on bonuses that would have nixed the AIG bonuses. Got that?
In any case, now in the final stretch, national Dems are getting in in a pretty big way, signaling they think the chances of a Murphy victory are good enough to take the risk. Obama sent out an email to supporters in the district, formally endorsing Murphy. Biden recorded a radio ad. And the DNC is up on the air in the district reminding voters that Obama supports Murphy.
At this point, they’re all in. We’ll know more Tuesday night.
Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.