We’ll have to wait a few weeks for the absentee ballots and inevitable court challenges to tell us who won last night’s Tedisco-Murphy special election in New York’s 20th Congressional District. But with national attention focused on the race, operatives are struggling to paint the tie in a good light for their side.
The Republican strategy appears to be, first: Ignore Tedisco’s catastrophic 12-point poll drop during the campaign, and keep on the sunny side. E.g.: “Murphy’s numbers went down this weekend after the Democrats began using Obama and Biden in mailers and advertisements,” says an analyst at National Review. Thus, “Whatever the results, Obama can’t claim victory on this one.”
Second, portray the Democrats as likely to “vote grab” for victory (a la “Al Franken”) in an election in which they are, at the moment, leading. Republicans actually fired the first extra-electoral gun here, moving well before the votes were counted to impound them; the motion was filed by lawyer John Ciampoli, who had earlier done Tedisco the favor of pushing Libertarian Eric Sundwall off the ballot by, as Sundwall told us, holding him “hostage in Poughkeepsie” with serious fraud charges, which strategy forced him from the race. But by portraying the Democrats as connivers, they may convince observers that the Tedisco forces are merely reacting to an attempted putsch.
Democrats, conversely, are playing up Murphy’s earlier poll deficits and the huge majority of registered Republicans in the district. Thus, “NY-20’s tied election is a Huge win for President Obama” and “Wingnuts Freak.”
That’s how the cheering sections are currently set up, and the protracted vote-counting process will give them plenty of time to make noise.