Tea Party voters turning anti-Republican in New York district?

I hesitate to read too much into this, but the polling data for Tuesday’s special election in New York’s 26th Congressional district has shown of a curious shift away from the self-described Tea Party (officially independent) candidate and toward the Democrat. In fact, Democrat Kathy Hochul now leads Republican Jane Corwin by 4 points in a Siena College poll. (New York allows a candidate to run as the nominee of multiple parties, and both Hochul and Corwin are technically the nominees of other parties as well.)

But what’s particularly interesting is that from April 29 to May 21, Democrat Hochul’s support rose from 31 to 42 percent, while the percentage choosing independent Jack Davis fell almost the exact same amount from 23 to 12. Meanwhile Republican Corwin is down from 38 to 36 percent, with the difference showing up as undecided. (There’s also a fourth candidate, Ian Murphy, who polls just 1 percent.)

I don’t know enough to draw any firm conclusions about What It All Means (and for all I know this latest result is an accident of the polling), but it certainly looks as if a lot of Davis voters are switching from the independent to the Democrat. (Of course, it might be that they’re switching to the Republican, and Republican supporters are switching to the Democrat, or some other combination of things.)

Odd as this might seem, three things make it somewhat plausible: One is that Kathy Hochul is apparently viewed more favorably than her opponents. Another is that Tea Party Express, one of the various national organizations claiming the Tea Party label, has recently declared Davis a fake Tea Partier. (But they also endorsed the Republican, so while they might have hurt Davis, they don’t seem to have helped Corwin.)

Yet another, and perhaps the most important, possible factor explaining the shift is increasing voter unease about the Republican plan to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the law they call “Obamacare”), which includes a lot of additional benefits for Medicare recipients, and to phase out Medicare entirely for people born after about 1955 in favor of a voucher system that the Congressional Budget Office projects would leave seniors paying an average of over an additional $6000 per year out of pocket, with that amount rising over time. Indeed, Democrats have emphasized Medicare in the campaign, and while conservative voters, especially elderly ones, are not wild about government in general, Medicare is something they tend to like, as in “Keep your big-government hands off my Medicare!”

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