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N.Y. race heats up: Democrats test message on GOP plan to 'end Medicare'

In a special congressional election for New York's solidly Republican 26th District, the Democrat says her GOP foe would back Paul Ryan's plan to 'end Medicare.' The parties are taking notice.

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As the competitiveness of the race has become clear, both national parties have jumped in with money and support. This week the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee committed $250,000 worth of TV ads in the race. The National Republican Congressional Committee and other groups pledged $900,000 for TV ads for Corwin. On Monday, House Speaker John Boehner appeared in the district on Corwin’s behalf.

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Stakes are high for GOP

The stakes are high for the GOP. A Corwin loss would be portrayed as a slam against the party’s proposals for dramatic deficit reduction, and could slow Republican momentum following the party’s big victory last November in congressional, state, and local races. True, NY-26 is just one congressional district, and the result will inevitably be over-interpreted. But the Republican Party has had a bad stretch with special House elections, losing six out of the last seven since 2008, and it wants to turn that trend around.

The NY-26 seat – once held by the late Jack Kemp – opened up following the resignation of Rep. Chris Lee (R), who quit after sending a shirtless picture of himself to a woman on Craigslist.

At first glance, the race may seem to be a repeat of the NY-23 special election of 2009, in which a Democrat won a Republican-held seat with the inadvertent help of a tea party candidate. But this race is different, notes David Wasserman, House-watcher for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.

“Corwin is a much stronger candidate [than the Republican in the NY-23 race] and her vast personal fortune ... [is] helping her self-finance the race,” Mr. Wasserman writes. “She is also much more of a down-the-line conservative.”

In NY-23, Republican candidate Dede Scozzafava was a moderate, opening herself up to a challenge from the right. The tea party-backed Conservative Party candidate, Doug Hoffman, siphoned away support, leading Scozzafava to quit the race and making Mr. Hoffman the effective GOP candidate. Democrat Bill Owens won the election, and he was reelected last November.

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