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After N.Y. Special Election, GOP Tries to Regain Footing

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Rep. Lee Terry said all GOP leaders are to blame for the upset victory by Democrat Kathy Hochul in New York's special election Tuesday.

Freshman Rep. Michael Grimm blamed the election loss largely on the presence of third-party candidate Jack Davis, but he conceded that Medicare messaging played a part in the Republican’s defeat.

“I think the Democrats messaging on health care has been effective in the sense that it’s very easy to say, ‘Republicans want to kill Grandma’ or ‘Republicans are destroying Medicare,’” Grimm said. “It’s cute; it makes headlines; but it doesn’t address the problem.

The New York Republican, who doesn’t regret voting for overhauling Medicare, said the party must get better at making its argument.

“At least the Republicans had the courage to put something on the table — maybe not perfect, certainly open to discussion — I’m willing to hear all sides and all options,” he said. “To do nothing, the status quo is not an option because it is going broke.”

More than two weeks before Election Day, NRCC internal polling showed that Corwin was trailing by double digits. The committee knew the race was lost days before voters went to the polls, and Republican leaders braced their Members for the loss during Tuesday’s Conference meeting.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) also announced leaders would put forward a new jobs package that will be unveiled at a press conference today. But leading up to the unveiling, GOP aides grumbled that the new jobs agenda was hastily put together and might not be a strong enough response to the concerns of constituents back home.

GOP leadership aides maintain committee chairmen have stayed focused on the issue of jobs and that after the fog of the New York special election clears, the party will be back on track.

“Look, this is a wake-up call for Members,” a GOP leadership aide said of the special election, adding that “if you ever want a wake-up call, you want it 18 months before the election.”

Republicans have to defend a large number of seats held by vulnerable freshmen next year. With so many seats on the line, the aide said, “you can expect to see an internal debate as to whether or not Republicans should try to change the message or challenge Democrats head on. We can do a better job at both, frankly.”

Democrats, meanwhile, spent most of Wednesday gloating over New York and taking a victory lap on behalf of their Medicare message. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) declared that Medicare is “the No. 1 issue in that district, as it is all over the country.”

Democrats asserted the election was a referendum on Ryan’s plan, which failed to pass the Senate on Wednesday afternoon.

“I think it shows that the public doesn’t want to get rid of Medicare and all but four of the [House] Republicans are on record saying they would,” Rep. Robert Andrews said.

The New Jersey Democrat also said he believes the issue will continue to resonate beyond the New York special election.

“I think it’s a very defining issue in 2012 and it is going to serve us well,” he said. “It’s less about the special. It’s more about the issue. This is a vote they are going to wish they could make go away, but they can’t.”

New York Rep. Gary Ackerman agreed.

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