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Dem win in key special election stuns GOP, jolts political world

Republicans thought they were poised for a big win in a closely watched congressional special election in a bellwether district. Voters had other ideas.


As voters throughout New York prepared to cast ballots Tuesday morning, Republican congressional hopeful Marc Molinaro urged people to show up and “send a message” to Washington, D.C.

As it turns out, that’s precisely what happened — though it wasn’t the message Molinaro and his party wanted to hear. NBC News reported:

A victory in a bellwether House district in Hudson Valley gives fresh hope to Democrats ahead of a daunting 2022 midterm election and raises questions for Republicans who have been expecting a “red wave” this fall. Democrat Pat Ryan won the hotly contested special election Tuesday, defeating Republican Marc Molinaro, NBC News projected.

With just about all of the votes counted, Ryan appears to have prevailed by about 2 percentage points. The Democrat will now serve out the remainder of this Congress in the seat left vacant by Lt. Gov. Antonio Delgado, before running for a full term of his own in a newly redrawn neighboring district in the fall.

For those unfamiliar with New York’s 19th district, it’s widely seen as one of the nation’s most reliable bellwethers: To see which way the prevailing political winds are blowing, watch how voters in the Hudson Valley are casting their ballots. It is, after all, a district that supported George W. Bush, then Barack Obama, then Donald Trump, and then Joe Biden.

It’s also a district that flipped from “blue” to “red” in the Republicans’ 2010 wave election, only to flip back from “red” to “blue” in the Democrats’ 2018 wave election.

With this in mind, ahead of Tuesday’s special election, GOP leaders were quite optimistic that they would flip the seat back, sending an unmistakable signal about a Republican takeover in November. Indeed, in the spring, the National Republican Congressional Committee effectively guaranteed success.

They’d recruited a good candidate with high name recognition; they’d invested heavily in the race; and GOP voters turned out in large numbers, just as the party had hoped.

But it wasn’t enough — and it’s worth understanding why.

As recently as early July, Republicans’ internal polling showed Molinaro with a sizable lead, but Ryan believed the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade would change the direction of the election.

“We are going to nationalize this race,” Ryan told The Washington Post eight weeks ago. “I believe this has to be a national referendum on Roe. It’s our first chance to send this message, that the country is not going to tolerate this erosion of our fundamental rights.”

GOP insiders didn’t think this would work. They were wrong: Unexpectedly robust Democratic turnout made the difference. “Well, s---,” one Republican strategist told Politico last night as results came in.

Politico ran a related report late last week with a headline that read, “Want to know if a red wave is happening? Watch this special election.”

Well, we watched, and the results suggest that those assuming that a red wave is taking shape may need to start adjusting their expectations.