The New York Times provided big play to Tuesday's special congressional election to fill New York's 26th congressional district near Buffalo, a race in which Democrat Kathy Hochul upset Republican Jane Corwin. Reporter Raymond Hernandez was quick to assume this one special race spells bad news for Republican plans to reform Medicare, and their prospects in the national elections 18 months away. But how does the Times typically react when Republicans win special and off-year elections?
The stack of headlines to Wednesday's off-lead story by the conservative-hostile Hernandez set the tone: "Gaining Upset, Democrat Wins New York Seat - Blow to National G.O.P. - Victor in House Contest Fought a Republican Plan on Medicare ."
Democrats scored an upset in one of New York's most conservative Congressional districts on Tuesday, dealing a blow to the national Republican Party in a race that largely turned on the party's plan to overhaul Medicare.
The results set off elation among Democrats and soul-searching among Republicans, who questioned whether they should rethink their party's commitment to the Medicare plan, which appears to have become a liability heading into the 2012 elections.
Two months ago, the Democrat, Kathy Hochul, was considered an all-but-certain loser in the race against the Republican, Jane Corwin. But Ms. Hochul seized on the Republican's embrace of the proposal from Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, to overhaul Medicare, and she never let up.
On Tuesday, she captured 47 percent of the vote to Ms. Corwin's 43 percent, according to unofficial results. A Tea Party candidate, Jack Davis, had 9 percent.
Voters, who turned out in strikingly large numbers for a special election, said they trusted Ms. Hochul, the county clerk of Erie County, to protect Medicare.
Reporter Jennifer Steinhauer refrained from saying Republicans were doomed because of Medicare, but the headline to her online "news analysis" made the same point as Hernandez: "G.O.P. on the Defensive as Voters Resist Medicare Plan ."
Even before the Republican loss Tuesday night in the race for a vacant House seat from New York - a contest fought in large part over the Medicare proposal - Democrats were clinging to the developments like koalas to eucalyptus trees, hoping that plan's toxicity among many voters would give them a shot at retaining control of the Senate and, in their most vivid dreams, taking back the House majority.
Michael Powell's Wednesday morning essay posted on the paper's "Caucus" blog, "Discontent Turns Tide in Hochul's Victory Upstate ," indulged in a little Creative Writing 201 imagery about the "achingly beautiful land" before Powell worked in his usual left hooks :
Auto plants have moved out or downsized, and family farms keep their orchards going on the backs of Caribbean and Mexican laborers (even as local politicians decry these same immigrants - a puzzle for another day)....The current Republican injunctions - cutting Medicare, reducing taxes on the rich, great pailfuls of anti-Obama bile - tend to draw a pained look. Just bring down taxes, pull up wages and don't go Glenn Beck on everyone.
The Times' coverage fits the paper's pattern of slant regarding special and off-year elections in general. When the Democrats win, as they did in another New York state special election back in 2009, it's a "Blow to the Right ," just as yesterday's win by Democrat Hochul was a "Blow to National G.O.P." But when Republicans win off-year elections, as they did in the 2009 governor's races in Virginia and New Jersey, the paper downplays the significance, as it did in a text box: "A referendum on Obama, or isolated local contests?"
The answer, of course, turned out to be the former.
- Clay Waters is director of Times Watch . You can follow him on Twitter .