Déjà vu. An overwhelming underdog wins a special election with huge national implications.
Kathy Hochul is projected to be the winner of the New York special election for the 26th district. It's for the vacated seat of Republican Chris Lee, who resigned due to his Craigslist shirtless photo scandal.
How did Hochul, a Democrat, beat her opponent Jane Corwin, a Republican, in an overwhelmingly Republican district?
Simple. It was referendum, with national implications, on the Republican budget proposal and the entire Republican Party.
Corwin supported the budget proposal of Republican Paul Ryan, who chairs the House Budget Committee. His proposal would cut the budget deficit by over $4 trillion over the next 10 years. Part of his plan is to reduce Medicare spending and change it to a voucher program. The changes will not affect anyone current over 55.
However, seniors, for some reason, really don't like Ryan's proposal. Hochul held on that, push it in her campaigns, and won.
Republicans need to reassess here.
Ever since Scott Brown won Ted Kennedy's senator seat in the Massachusetts special election, they rode the swelling wave of the public's anti-Obama, anti-Obamacare, and anti-budget deficit sentiment.
They thought the public would continue to support Ryan's hardline approach to tackle the budget deficit, even if it touches entitlement programs like Medicare. They thought their stance of fiscal discipline will continue to garner public support, help them win more elections in Congress, and propel them to recapture the White House in 2012.
But it turns out that many people are really touchy about Medicare. Vowing to reform it, then, may not only fail to garner them support but actually cause them to lose it.
When Scott Brown won the Massachusetts special election early in 2010, it marked the turning point of public opinion against Obamacare and the Obama administration. It took a while for President Obama to realize that and shift his political strategy.
If Kathy Hochul's victory turns out to be a Scott Brown-esque moment, the Republicans better think of something else besides slashing Medicare.