Deutchman on Special Election – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
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Deutchman on Special Election

Professor of Political Science Iva Deutchman was recently quoted in an article in the Finger Lakes Times about the special election held in the 26th Congressional District in N.Y.

“Democrats see Hochul’s win in a formerly safe GOP district as a rejection of congressional Republicans’ plans to convert Medicare into a voucher system, which Hochul campaigned against. The Democrats think they’ve found an issue they can exploit in 2012, and it’s a fair bet they’ll try using it against the freshmen Republicans who won this area’s three House of Representatives seats last fall,” the article states.

“Republicans see Hochul’s win simply as the result of Davis’ candidacy and not as the first blow in a nationwide lambasting,” the article continues.

Deutchman is quoted as saying she thinks “both sides are wrong” because she doesn’t believe that the win means a sweep for the Democrats in 2012 or a license for Republicans to ignore voters’ concerns about Medicare.

“Voters, after all, pay into the Medicare system and therefore expect to see the benefits,” says Deutchman, “It’s like you go to McDonald’s: You give them three bucks, you want your Big Mac.”

Deutchman, a member of the HWS faculty since 1987, holds a Ph.D. and a master’s degree in political science from the University of Pennsylvania, and a bachelor’s degree from Hofstra University in political science and economics.

The full article follows.

Finger Lakes Times
Views diverge on meaning of special House election

Jim Miller • May 29, 2011

If you haven’t recovered enough from the recent barrage of congressional campaign commercials to see the candidates’ names without twitching, brace yourself.

Unlike those campaign ads, the 26th Congressional District that Democrat Kathy Hochul won in a special election Tuesday does not extend into the Finger Lakes. But her upset victory in the four-way race may figure in future campaigns here and around the nation – and that makes it worth another mention.

Both sides are looking at Hochul’s defeat of Republican Jane Corwin, Jack Davis (more on his party affiliation later) and Green Party candidate Ian Murphy for hints on how they should shape their 2012 campaigns and signs of their chances.

Democrats see Hochul’s win in a formerly safe GOP district as a rejection of congressional Republicans’ plans to convert Medicare into a voucher system, which Hochul campaigned against. The Democrats think they’ve found an issue they can exploit in 2012, and it’s a fair bet they’ll try using it against the freshmen Republicans who won this area’s three House of Representatives seats last fall.

Republicans see Hochul’s win simply as the result of Davis’ candidacy and not as the first blow in a nationwide lambasting.

Davis ran on a tea party line, they reason, splitting the Republican vote. Both sides may be overly optimistic in their analyses – or worse.

“I think both sides are wrong,” said Iva Deutchman, a political science professor at Hobart and William Smith Colleges.

She doesn’t think Hochul’s win means Democrats will sweep the 2012 elections. And she doesn’t think Republicans can just blame Davis and ignore voters’ concerns about their Medicare plans.

Voters, after all, pay into the Medicare system and therefore expect to see the benefits. “It’s like you go to McDonald’s: You give them three bucks, you want your Big Mac,” Deutchman said.

But while Tuesday’s results may reflect voters’ appetite for the benefits they’ve bought with their taxes, there’s a danger for Democrats in reading them as a mandate. And its name is Jack Davis.

A Buffalo-area businessman, Davis began his political life as a Republican but ran for Congress three times as a Democrat before re-registering as a Republican and then creating a Tea Party line for this year’s election. To further complicate things, the leaders of several national tea party groups disavowed

Davis and endorsed Corwin. So where did Davis’ votes come from? If his supporters would otherwise have voted for Corwin, then Hochul owes Davis a thank-you note for her congressional seat, and Democrats would do well not to cheer too loudly about their supposed Medicare mandate. But if Davis took votes from both candidates or from Hochul, then Democrats can smile away and start planning for next fall.

No one can know for sure what the election would have looked like without Davis, but a May 21 Siena College poll does show some of what voters were thinking.

To Democrats’ delight, Medicare really was on their minds: 21 percent of all those polled and 38 percent of Hochul supporters picked it as the most important issue in deciding who to vote for.

To Republicans’ delight, 19 percent of all those polled and 30 percent of Corwin supporters picked the federal budget deficit – a key GOP talking point – as their most important issue. But in a possible hint of Davis siphoning votes from Corwin, 21 percent of his supporters also cited the deficit as their biggest issue.

Yet 34 percent of Davis supporters polled said they had a favorable view of President Barack Obama, meaning Davis might have picked up votes from people who would otherwise have picked Hochul.

The truth? Who knows. But it looks like both sides have found issues that resonate with voters – and like we’ll be seeing a lot more campaign ads on TV next year.

Anyone feel like a good book?

Miller’s Eye on Government column runs on Sundays. Contact him at jmiller@fltimes.com or 789-3333 ext. 258.