Stu Rothenberg, election prognosticator, two months ago, in his February 6, 2009 edition of the Rothenberg Political Report newsletter:
Gillibrand won the seat in 2006 by defeating a tainted incumbent, but she cruised to reelection last cycle in the traditionally Republican district.
Without her incumbency, Democrats will have a tough time holding the seat. The national political environment hasn't improved all that much for Republicans, but they quickly rallied behind the candidacy of state Assembly Minority Leader Jim Tedisco (R), who already represents an important part of the congressional district. Meanwhile, Democrats took longer to choose their candidate, and finally landed on venture capitalist Scott Murphy (D), a wealthy, first-time candidate [...]
Gillibrand's 2008 reelection made this district look more Democratic than it really is, but the national landscape hasn't improved all that much for Republicans. Low turnout special elections can be extremely volatile, but this is an excellent opportunity for Republicans to get one seat back.
Stu Rothenberg, GOP mouthpiece, today:
[T]hink what this election would have been like for Republicans if it had occurred last November. Murphy would have buried Tedisco by 6, 8 or maybe 10 points.
The absence of George W. Bush as a factor in this race helped Tedisco, and it suggests that while Republicans certainly haven’t turned the page on the past eight years and still have plenty of damage to repair, they have hit the bottom and are starting to bounce back. That is good news for the GOP.
So in the last two months, Stu went from "Democrats will have a tough time holding the seat" in a district that appeared "more Democratic than it is", to the fact that losing the election day vote is "good news for the GOP"! A cynic might say that Rothenberg was trying to create an aura of invicibility to help out Tedisco in February, and now he's spinning the results to salvage GOP pride. And yes, feel free to call me a cynic.
Much has been made of the Republican registration — far too much, even by those of us who should know better. You don’t need a doctorate in political science to know that registration is a lagging indicator and that what is important is how people usually vote.
The facts are, there is a huge Republican voter advantage in the district. Now as Rothenberg argues (ignore the condescension), that 70,000 number may not mean as much given that voter registration can be a lagging indicator (like we see in the South). But even Republican polling cited by Rothenberg shows that Republicans have at least a 6-point advantage in the district. So assuming the GOP numbers are correct, Tedisco still underperformed his district's bent by significantly losing the independent vote. How would that point to a Republican resurgence? Obviously, it wouldn't. It's a nice try, though.
People in this district may be registered as Republicans, but many simply haven’t been voting that way. The district is competitive. President Barack Obama won it (51 percent to 48 percent), now-Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D) was elected to represent the district twice (with 53 percent and 62 percent) and President George W. Bush won it with only 54 percent in 2004. Bush won a very similarly configured district (then the 22nd) with just 50 percent in 2000.
It may be competitive in the sense that the national Republican Party keeps running terrible candidates more in tune with their Southern base than with the rest of the country. At the local level, Republicans have had little trouble holding the region. It took a wife-beating report to strip former Republican Rep. John Sweeney of his seat, and let's not forget -- Tedisco represents a huge chunk of the area in the New York Assembly while the entire district is represented by Republicans in the state Senate.
But don't take my word for it. Just look to Rothenberg, in February, when he wrote, "Gillibrand's 2008 reelection made this district look more Democratic than it really is."
Given both parties’ spending, the personal appeal and profile of Murphy, the excellent Democratic advertising and the fundamental competitiveness of the district — to say nothing of the popularity of both Obama and Gillibrand, and Gov. David Paterson’s (D) delay in declaring the seat’s vacancy — it isn’t surprising that Murphy started behind but closed the gap in the race.
Rothenberg is trying to shrug off Murphy's dramatic gains in just two short months, from unknown political nobody to edging out the state Assembly minority leader in the election day balloting. In Rothenberg's world, it happens all the time! It's common! It's normal!
Then again, his explanation -- that the Dems run great candidates, that they run great campaigns, and that they have the most attractive surrogates, means that this is all good news for Republicans? Really?
Because I would argue that it would be good news for Republicans if they could recruit great candidates, run great campaigns, and have popular surrogates to call on so they wouldn't blow 21-point leads in just a few short weeks.
As Arjun put it in an email as we discussed this column: "I agree, it's not surprising that Murphy closed the gap. We do this a lot, and it's not flukish. It's because we have better candidates and we're a party with better ideas and better infrastructure."
But somehow, this is all good news for the GOP!
Third, I can’t see why Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.) and DNC Chairman Tim Kaine would be confident that Murphy will expand his lead. I don’t know who will eventually win, but more Republican than Democratic absentee ballots have been received, according to GOP sources.
This, written by a guy who just told us that voter registration doesn't mean shit.
And the whole column is replete with "GOP sources" and "GOP polling". It's pretty obvious that Stu sat down with some NRCC folks yesterday, and this column just happens to be the notes from that meeting.
More importantly, think what this election would have been like for Republicans if it had occurred last November. Murphy would have buried Tedisco by 6, 8 or maybe 10 points.
In a normal 7-10 month campaign, yes, Murphy would've buried Tedisco by 6, 8 or maybe 10 points. He overcame 21 points in two months! And even if Tedisco pulls this thing off with the absentees, we'll have a rematch in 2010 in which, yes, Murphy will win by 6, 8, or maybe 10 points.
This may be the dumbest piece of crap ever written by Rothenberg, but Republicans on the Hill are passing it around gleefully. The "independent" Rothenberg regurgitated their talking points word for word! So it may be a whole lot of stupid and wholly inconsistent with what he wrote back in February, but it's mission accomplished for Stu, always happy to prop up the Republican Party.