The Coin Toss

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When New York Governor David Paterson appointed upstate Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand to Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat earlier this year, he unwittingly set up ground zero for an early debate on President Barack Obama and his economic stimulus plans.

On March 31st, a special election will be held in the 20th Congressional District pitting longtime New York Assembly Minority Leader Jim Tedisco (R- Schenectady) against Democrat businessman and political novice Scott Murphy. The 20th District is an interesting battleground for the first Congressional race since Obama took office, as sits in the increasingly liberal upstate New York, but happens to be a Republican stronghold for decades.

Gillibrand's first win in 2006 was considered a dramatic upset, attributed to a combination of her engaging personality, conservative views on finance and gun control, and an opponent draped in controversy.

Last year the District, like much of the state, voted for President Obama- despite its heavy Republican enrollment. Pundits on both sides of the aisles admit that Tedisco has run a clumsy race, making the outcome that much more important. At the end of the day, Tedisco will not win based on who he is, but if the 20th is concerned with the agenda the President has pushed in his first few months, he stands a fighting change.

Both Murphy and Tedisco have hammered each other on the economic stimulus package. Tedisco has attacked Murphy by claiming he created thousands of jobs for India, stealing work from Americans, and labeling him an outsider… or is it an insider. You can't keep track these days.

Murphy has criticized Tedisco for not taking a stand on the stimulus package, and has more or less campaigned on the back of Obama.

That is until the AIG bonus story broke last week and Tedisco emphatically came out against the Obama economic plan- better late than never. That spurred the Murphy camp to create an ad that could be considered a Tedisco ad depending upon how voters feel when they walk into the voting booth.

I was lukewarm on Tedisco until that ad, which was meant to be a negative piece, but did the opposite. Granted I have strong feelings on the stimulus package, which I’m not sure others do. Murphy has even taken a page from Obama’s book and said the stimulus package will create or save 76,000 jobs in upstate New York.

Upstate television viewers have been inundated with ads from both sides, including productions sanctioned and paid for by the Republican National Congressional Committee and Democrat National Congressional Committee. Both sides are invested heavily in the outcome, despite the fact that today one Congressman makes little difference at this point.

The 2010 mid-term election campaigns are going to start sooner than they have in years past, as each party believes it can capitalize on the current problems facing our nation. This is the pre-game buffet. There have been many issues discussed in the race thus far, but make no mistake that the Economic Stimulus Recovery Act will be the deciding factor.

For the Democrats, it is a race that should’ve been easily won. The District supported Obama, Gillibrand supports Murphy, and he has campaigned on the popularity of the President. Because of the enrollment advantage, a loss would not be devastating, but it would give some pause to a party that seems to believe the entire country is ready to follow it down a path to socialism.

The Republicans faced an uphill battle in winning the seat because of the above factors, and they have been saddled with a candidate that has been consistently inconsistent when it comes to his message. A win would be great, a loss not terrible for a party that needs to life, new ideas, and a new voice, particularly in New York.

At the end of the day it’s a toss up with one week to go. That's ironic when you consider that at this point the race is the coin toss for the 2010 mid-term games. Winner gets ball first. Heads or tails?

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