Like the man who only buys Playboy magazine for the articles, I only buy the Almanac of American Politics for the statistics. It is certainly NOT for the lyrical prose of one Michael Barone.
Barone is one of the "serious" Washington insider pundits who has been the author of that particular work for as long as I can remember. Amid an avalanche of quite interesting historical and biographical data, he makes sure to spice it up with some analysis that is almost unfailingly well to the right-of-center.
Well, we don't have to wait until this Fall to enjoy it. He gave us some comedy gold on April Fools Day, and I am pretty sure he wasn't even joking with us.
Barone turns his...ahem...keen insights on the special election held yesterday in New York's 20th Congressional District, in an article for US News and World Report. Some of his analysis holds up well: Barone's point that the results in NY-20 were not dramatically different than those in November was a point also raised by none other than Nate Silver.
Where Barone really goes off the rails is when this Grand Poobah of Beltway punditry tries to do a regional analysis of why the various localities of the 20th district voted the way they did.
Tedisco's strong showing in Saratoga County, for example, was a little bitty John Galt moment, as the affluent and successful suburbs rebelled against that darned confiscatory, socialist president:
In Saratoga County, Tedisco got 59 percent as many votes as McCain, while Murphy got only 47 percent as many as Obama. Tedisco's percentage in Saratoga County, which casts about one third of the district's votes, was 6.3 percent higher than McCain—a gain that, if duplicated district-wide, would have given him a solid win. Obama ran very well in affluent suburban counties, in many probably better than any Democrat has run since Lyndon Johnson in 1964. This suggests the Obama appeal is wearing off in such areas and that opposition to the expansive Obama budgets and the various bailouts has some traction there. I should add that I don't find this effect in Rensselaer County, however.
...Um...Mike? It could also be that Tedisco's "home base" is in Saratoga County. I put home base in those little quotes, of course, because he is well...you know...not actually FROM the district.
The fact that he represents Saratoga County in the lege might explain his healthy numbers there, Mikey. It might also explain why you did not find "that effect" in Rensselaer County. You see, that "effect" seems not to exist.
And...what should we make out of unusual pockets of strength for Scott Murphy?
Murphy's percentage was 5.2 percent higher than Obama's in Warren County and 6.5 percent higher than Obama's in Washington County—gains that, if duplicated district-wide, would have given him a solid win. These are Vermontish areas, literally on the Vermont border, once heavily Republican (as Vermont was), which seem to have attracted Manhattan-oriented newcomers who are highly liberal on cultural issues and quite willing to support big government policies.
....OR it could also have something to do with the fact that Glens Falls (which is adjacent to the Warren/Washington county line) is where Scott Murphy is FROM.
My sole concern in reading this drivel is that I can click on my stopwatch and get an exact time before some "important" columnist or teevee pundit starts to parrot this tripe.
If I have a pet peeve among political "thinkers" of all political ideologies, it is the annoying tendency they have to draw big, sweeping conclusions when smaller and simpler ones are, in all likelihood, more accurate.
Barone is absolutely FAMOUS for doing this. How can a guy as well acquainted with American elections as he is (give the devil his due--he's been doing this longer than I've been alive, presumably) MISS something as obvious as knowing where the candidates are from? Something that elementary not appearing the article is no mere sin of omission. He left it out intentionally--because it was a clear and obvious contradiction to the quite partisan analysis he was trying to craft.
Therefore, I am not acquitting Barone of partisanship here. His take is clearly right-wing spin, even cloaked in the title that the Democrats will draw more satisfaction from this outcome.
As with his Almanac, he cannot play it straight, no matter how hard he tries.
The problem is that the traditional media takes Barone seriously. Not as another voice in the right-wing bullpen, but as an impartial analyst of elections and their ramifications.
This confers on him legitimacy that his cheerleading does not always merit. This particular bit of analysis is the most recent example of this. It is far from the only one.