The New York congressional race in the sprawling 20th District took a turn Wednesday when President Barack Obama officially came out in support of Democratic candidate and businessman Scott Murphy over Republican challenger Jim Tedisco.
House Democrats had been angry at the lack of White House support for Murphy, who seeks the seat left vacant when Democratic Kirsten Gillibrand was tapped to fill Hillary Clinton’s former Senate seat.
Tedisco, the minority leader in the State Assembly and a vocal conservative advocating fiscal responsibility and lower taxes, has a 4-point lead with less than a week to go until voters take to the polls, according to the latest Sienna Research Institute poll.
With that in mind, Obama sent an e-mail Wednesday announcing his public endorsement of Murphy to more than 50,000 individuals from the massive fundraising and distribution list he compiled during his presidential bid, the Washington Times reports.
"On Tuesday, voters will have a chance to send Scott [Murphy] to Congress, where we will work together to get our economy moving in the right direction," Obama wrote. "Scott has the kind of experience and background we desperately need right now in Washington."
The special-election race between Murphy, a venture capitalist, and Tedisco is shaping up to be a referendum on the Obama administration's economic policies.
In a recent interview with Newsmax, Tedisco said he will remain an advocate for New York's forgotten middle class in Washington. He plans to support "any legislation that cuts taxes for working families and creates jobs. I’m going to stand up and speak out for fiscal responsibility, lower taxes, accountability to the taxpayers and getting our economy back on the road to recovery.”
Democrats hope Obama’s endorsement of Murphy will be enough to persuade a majority of the 13 percent undecided voters in the district to vote for him and pull out a last-minute win. The upstate district two hours north of New York City has had a Republican congressman 18 of the past 24 years.
The race could tighten further now that Obama has thrown his enormous grass-roots political machine behind Murphy, but a Democratic Party official says the Democratic National Committee has contributed only $5,000 to the race.
The official says Murphy’s lack of White House support “has infuriated House Democrats,” who fear the gesture could amount to too little, too late, Politico reports.
DNC Chairman Tim Kaine has kept his distance from the race, too.
Party insiders close to the race tell Politico that Kaine “refused to meet with Murphy” when the candidate recently was at DNC headquarters.”
Obama still may issue an automated phone call on Murphy's behalf, the DNC says, and plans for a television ad have been discussed, The Times reports.
The GOP, on the other hand, has brought out the big guns for Tedisco, a vocal conservative advocating fiscal responsibility and lower taxes, and a social conservative on issues such as abortion.
Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, House Minority Leader John Boehner, and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani have campaigned for Tedisco.
In addition, the RNC has contributed $275,000 to the Tedisco campaign, and the National Republican Congressional Committee has staked him to more than $550,000.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee had spent more than $373,000 on the race through Monday, according to Federal Election Commission records, and both Tedisco and Murphy have at least $200,000 of their own money into the race.
“The president is committed to seeing Scott Murphy elected,” says Democratic National Committee spokesman Brad Woodhouse. “You can be sure there’s more to come.”
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