You could call it the Battle of the Ryans.

Yesterday, Congressman Tim Ryan (D-OH) delivered a blistering speech against House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) on the Chairman’s proposal to replace Medicare with private health insurance with vouchers (“premium support.”)

Later that same night, voter in the 26th District of New York held a special election to replace Republican Congressman Chris Lee who resigned after being found soliciting dates on Craigslist while still married to his wife.


This is a district that is considered solidly Republican.  The Republicans recruited a top notch candidate in State Assemblywoman Jane Corwin.  The Congresswoman-elect was a County Clerk in Erie.  All things being equal, this district should have been easily held by the GOP.

As the Associated Press reported, this district had been a conservative Republican district for decades, as it used to be held by the late Jack Kemp.  It was one of only four congressional district in the State that went for McCain in 2008.

The Democrat won running against her GOP opponent’s support of Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan.  It was a single-issue campaign.  As a result, she met the Democratic performance high water mark reached in 2006, a national Democratic wave year where the Democratic candidate was, ironically, the person now running as an official, third-party Tea Party candidate.  This alones suggest that the GOP’s Medicare overreach is enough to generate a Democratic turnout tide like we saw in 2006.  Not exactly something Speaker John Boehner wants.

Boehner campaigned heavily for the Republican there.  Karl Rove’s American Crossroads spent heavily there, as did the NRCC.  They lost.  It wasn’t even close (in an area that brought the nation Jack Kemp.)  This special election is as meaningful, as it was surprising, as Scott Brown’s surprise upset in Massachusetts  in the special election in 2010 to fill Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat.

(How much you want to bet John Boehner cried last night?  And I mean over this race and not because of the very special episode of “Touched By an Angel” he saw on re-runs.)

The only good news for the Republicans was that unlike the Brown race in 2010, the “dead canary” that is the Congressional campaign of Jane Corwin occurred early enough that the GOP has over a year to change political course and hope to make this Medicare issue a distant memory by the time the rest of the nation goes to the polls next November.

But that is exactly why I suspect Tim Ryan and other Democrats are going to continue to hammer them over the head with their budget vote in floor and stump speeches from now until the next November, just as Ryan did last night.  Tim Ryan, at least, is going to be in high demand for any Democratic candidate seeking to challenge any of the new GOP freshmen from Ohio, and that could position him well for a statewide bid in 2014… say, for Governor, or something.

If I were Bob Gibbs, Jim Renacci, or Bill Johnson, I’d be spending as much time as I can in Columbus trying to get a map drawn that would dissuade any ‘10 rematches or any other strong Democratic challenger that could bring Tim Ryan into town on the stump for them.

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