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Rep. Kathy Hochul should be toast.
Since the New York Democrat won a special election victory in May 2011 with less than 50 percent of the vote, the climate has turned less favorable to Democrats nationally and in New York. Hochul’s already Republican-leaning district was made more Republican through redistricting — it now would have voted 54 percent for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2008. Her GOP opponent, Chris Collins, is a wealthy former local elected official, willing to put his own money in the race. And Hochul is running in a presidential election year in a district President Barack Obama will almost certainly lose.
But Hochul, who highlights her independence, has a surprisingly strong shot at winning her first full term in Congress this November. It makes the race for the Empire State’s newly configured 27th district a true tossup worth watching.
Hochul won her upset special election victory messaging about the dire effects Wisconsin GOP Rep. Paul Ryan’s controversial budget would have on Medicare.
National Democrats, who admit the makeup of the district is “tough,” expect Hochul and her allies to continue talking about Medicare in a similar way.
In an interview Monday at a Washington, D.C., sandwich shop, Hochul ticked through a litany of cuts in that budget that she said would hurt her constituents. “The Ryan budget and Medicare continue to be issues in our district,” she said, adding that, politically, it “continues to be the gift that keeps giving.”
But Collins, who doesn’t support the cuts to Medicare in the Ryan budget, said discussing the entitlement program was something he was looking forward to.
“I can’t wait to debate Medicare with Rep. Hochul,” he said in a telephone interview. Collins highlighted Hochul’s “support of Obamacare, which takes
$500 billion out of Medicare.”
National Republicans believe that in New York’s 27th district, and across the country, a focus on the cuts to future Medicare spending embedded in the Affordable Care Act will inoculate their candidate from the attacks regarding the Ryan budget’s changes to Medicare.
This week, Hochul will vote against repealing the health care law for the second time, she said. It’s definitely a vote the GOP will use to attack her. But she didn’t seem particularly concerned about its political ramifications. “I have really smart constituents,” she said. “The national parties should not underestimate the intelligence and knowledge of our voters.”