Posts containing my opinion of the race.

Summing Up

It's been a hell of year for politics, and the race in the 29th was just one of the many dramatic races across the country. I'm going to post my take on each of the candidates in the next couple of days, but first I want to say a word about the candidates' staffs. Both went out of their way to be courteous to me this year.

Eric Massa and his staff have treated me in an exemplary fashion. I was invited to press conferences, put on the same press release list as district reporters, and questions I asked via email was answered quickly. Massa has a first-rate press operation, and it was a major part of his victory. Thanks especially to Jared Smith, Massa's Communications Director, who went out of his way to be helpful.

Randy Kuhl's staff could have chosen to ignore me, but they, too, responded to queries quickly and sent press releases. I understand why they didn't invite me to his press conferences, but other than that, I have no complaints. Justin Stokes, Kuhl's Campaign Manager, was very helpful, and Meghan Tisinger, his Communications Director, was not only courteous, she would also point out errors in posts, which I greatly appreciated.

A Congressional campaign or office is a direct reflection of the candidate or Member of Congress. I have a few critical things to say about the candidates, but that's no reflection on their staffs. Both staffs worked hard on this campaign. Any mistakes I saw were strategic, and the fault of the candidates, not the staffs.

Mustard Street's Call to Arms

Conservative blogger Philbrick at Mustard Street posts his first salvo in the campaign to unseat Eric Massa. Philbrick calls on his fellow conservatives to attend Massa's public meetings, ask questions and post videos. He thinks the result will be disaster for Massa:

Anyone who's interacted with Massa in unscripted circumstances is aware of the limitations of intellect and social personality skills that set up Massa nicely for public embarrassment.

In this statement, Philbrick commits the same error that lost Randy Kuhl the election: believing the caricature of Massa that Republicans tried to make stick for the last two elections.

Contrary to what you read in comments by some Republicans here and elsewhere, Massa is neither dumb nor socially retarded. I've spent hours listening to him answer questions from the press, and I've asked him a few tough ones myself. I've heard a few dumb things come out of his mouth, but not many. He's no Joe Biden.

Unlike a lot of politicians, Massa writes his own script and stays on it. Republicans might not like the script, but they shouldn't believe Massa lacks intelligence.

That said, Massa's definitely an acquired taste. The way I put it is that his volume knob is always at 11. Judging from election results, it appears that a number of Republicans actually like the guy. The Republican Massa voters I've heard from all pointed to his personality as one of the reasons they voted for him. They felt that he would be an independent voice and a "good fighter" (exact quote).

In four years of almost constant campaigning in the Southern Tier, Massa answered a lot of tough questions from Republicans. From what I've seen, he enjoys it. A few questions at town meetings aren't going to derail Massa's election.

What's going to stop Massa in two years is a good Republican candidate who can raise money and articulate a positive agenda that addresses real issues. He or she will have to be accepted in the Southern Tier and the Rochester suburbs. This candidate will need to spend a lot of time working the district.

Does such a Republican exist? I challenge Mustard Street and the other conservative bloggers in the area to name one person who has the talent and the grit to unseat Massa.

The Rule of Law

The 29th race is not the only race waiting for the final vote tally. The Minnesota Senate race is even tighter. It looks like the margin there is hundreds out of millions. Whatever you think of Al Franken, I thought his statement on the race struck the right tone, especially this paragraph:

The process, dictated by our laws, will be orderly, fair, and will take place within a matter of days. We won’t know for a little while who won this race, but at the end of the day, we will know that the voice of the electorate was clearly heard.

In 2006, Eric Massa exercised his rights as a candidate and waited for all votes to be counted before conceding. In 2008, Randy Kuhl is doing the same. That's a powerful statement about the rule of law.

Massa and Houghton

In case you missed it last night, Sean Carroll of WHAM reported that Amo Houghton and Eric Massa met last night:

Sean Carroll: Just got done talking Amo Houghton - and he just got here after visiting with Eric Massa!

Evan Dawson: Sean -- WOW WOW WOW. And why was he with Massa?

Sean Carroll: said he respects him - "stands for the right things" even though he's on the other side of the aisle. said he's still pulling for Randy, but after all "we're all Americans"

Amo Houghton would have racked up another 60/40 or 70/30 win last night against almost any Democrat, probably with my vote. If Republicans want to come back in New York State, they need to take a serious look at what Amo did right and what Randy Kuhl did wrong.

Looking at the Numbers

A few days ago someone asked what Massa was doing spending so much time in the Souther Tier in the last few days of the campaign. Last night, the the answer to that question became clear: He was winning the election.

In 2006, Kuhl won every Southern Tier county. This year, Massa won all the Southern Tier but Yates, Steuben and Schuyler. His margin of victory in Monroe was about the same as in '06, and he once again narrowly lost Ontario. Without the boost from those Tier counties, Randy Kuhl would have been re-elected.

Most of those counties are heavily Republican, so it's likely that Massa's margin of victory came not only from independent voters, but also from Republicans who were sending their party a message. It's also clear evidence that Massa's four years of appearances at Rotary meetings, union halls and town celebrations made a difference.

Registration Totals

The Board of Elections has posted final voter registration tallies. Overall, Democrats gained about 8,000 voters, and Republicans lost about 6,000, since 2006. There are also 7,000 more blanks.

That's good news for Massa, but with overall registration still favoring Republicans by about 50,000 voters, his task is still pretty similar to 2006: convincing Republicans.

Thanks to Sean Carroll for pointing this out. Also, note that the BOE is reporting "active" and "inactive" numbers in '08, but not in '06. I used the "inactive" number for an apples-to-apples comparison.

Healthcare Screw-Up

I just mis-stated Massa's position on HR 676 in a previous post. He supports it, and I've corrected the post. Sorry about that.

That said, Massa's opponents point to Section 101 of the bill as justification that illegal immigrants will be supported. Aside from Massa's flat statement that he doesn't support health care for illegal immigrants, I don't read it that way.

Section 101, like a lot of draft legislation, contains a bit of a contraction. On the one hand, it says that "all individuals" are covered. On the other hand, it requires a registration program for a health insurance card. The bill doesn't include much guidance on the whole registration program, but it's common sense that most illegal immigrants aren't going to participate in that kind of program.

More importantly, the reality of the moment is that many illegal immigrants are getting effectively free health care in our emergency rooms as we speak. The issue is the immigrants' presence in the United States. As long as they're here, somebody's going to be paying the bill for their health care, and that somebody is usually us, directly or indirectly.

The Healthcare Issue

Reader Phil Palmesano sent along the full press release from Republican/Conservative party chairs, which is embedded after the break. Their basic argument is that universal health care, which Massa supports, is too expensive and that it will cause an increase in middle-class taxes.

The Kuhl ads on health care and this press release all point to one source, Rep. John Conyers' [D-MI-14] cost-justification for a House bill. The bill, HR 676, has not been specifically endorsed by Massa, who also has his own plan.

It's also unlikely that this bill will be the final form of health care reform that is enacted under an Obama administration (assuming he's elected). Obama's health care plan is much more conservative.

That said, the supposedly scary thing about the bill is the 3.3% payroll tax increase that would fund it. That's $1,200/month for a family making $40,000/year.

Assuming that this family is not insured, they're paying more than that in medical expenses. If they are self-insured, then they are paying more in insurance. If they have employer insurance, their employer will save much more than $1,200, and perhaps they'll stay in business a bit longer to provide that $40,000 paycheck.

So, Conyers' plan, which, again, Massa has never said he supports, doesn't look that scary to me.

Finally, the press release, and Kuhl's ads, claim that the Massa supports health care for illegal immigrants. That's a mis-reading of the bill that Massa doesn't support. It also said that Massa supports limiting doctor choice, which is precisely not what Massa's plan says.

I'd suggest that everyone voting tomorrow who cares about this issue take a look at four things:

  1. Massa's plan
  2. Obama's plan
  3. Kuhl's plan
  4. John McCain's plan

Update: Thanks to Meghan Tisinger from Kuhl's office for the correction: Massa does support HR 676.

Four More to Go

If you like what you're seeing out your window today, expect more of the same on election day. The National Weather Service forecast for next Tuesday is sunny and unseasonably warm. It looks like a good day for big turnout.

Today, Eric Massa is touring Schuyler and Yates counties. His Schumer press conference got a little more press, but Chuck at a nursing home just isn't Hillary at a rally.

Randy Kuhl spent part of yesterday in Corning, receiving the National Association of Manufacturers endorsement. He's handing out trick-or-treat candy there tonight. I'd recommend full-size Hershey bars.

Update: The S-G has the details on Massa's visit to Watkins Glen, going on now, as well as more Vets endorsing Massa. Also, there was a universal health care rally, asking Kuhl to support it, in Elmira this morning.

Five Days and the Alarm Clock Rings

WETM has answered the "where's Randy?" question once and for all. Today, he's taping an episode of the Southern Tier political program Coleman and Company. Tomorrow, he's handing out trick-or-treat candy in Corning, and he'll be canvassing door-to-door in Elmira on Sunday.

Conspicuously absent from Kuhl's schedule is a major event like Massa's well-covered Hillary Clinton rally yesterday. The AP reports that Rudy Giuliani was campaigning in the Albany area in support of the Republican candidate in NY-20 yesterday. If Rudy showed up on Rochester for a rally supporting Randy Kuhl, Chris Lee and Dale Sweetland, it would get the kind of coverage that Hillary got yesterday.

Massa will be in Ontario and Monroe counties today, with the main event being a news conference with Chuck Schumer.

Though a few Republican strategists are quoted saying that the 29th is one of the more viable races in New York, and I agree with that assessment, independent analysts are still bearish on the race. Today, Larry Sabato moved the 29th to Democratic take-over status. NY-29 had been a toss-up in his last ranking.

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