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NY GOP Ready To Throw In The Towel On Tedisco?

By David A. Patten   |   Friday, 24 Apr 2009 11:04 AM

New York GOP Assemblyman Jim Tedisco now trails Democrat Scott Murphy by 401 votes and seems mired in a political quicksand that is pulling him ineluctably downward with each passing day.

Tedisco seems to slip further behind Murphy with each new vote count released by the State Board of Elections. On election night he was ahead by 65 votes and he entered this week only 273 votes behind his opponent. Now New York GOP leaders are openly voicing skepticism he can make up the lost ground.

One reason for the pessimism about Tedisco’s prospects: Fewer than 600 ballots in the contest remain to be counted, election officials say.

“The race will not be decided until all the votes are counted,” Paul Lindsay, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, told the Wall Street Journal. But other GOP leaders aren’t waiting until the final bell to do the math.

Unless the GOP candidate succeeds in his legal bid to have scores of votes disqualified as fraudulent, even Republicans say the gap is probably too much for Tedisco to overcome.

“We’ve lost the New York special election,” former NRCC chief Thomas M. Davis III, a former Virginia congressman, told the Washington Times on Sunday. “It’s gone.”

One reason for Tedisco’s slide this week is that he filed most of the election’s absentee-ballot challenges. Most such challenges are eventually included in election tallies, and District 20 officials are counting some of those ballots this week. Tedisco didn’t challenge votes that were cast for himself, so the remaining ballots being counted are far more likely to favor Murphy.

Now Empire State Republicans are beginning to face the apparent likelihood that they have lost a race where they enjoyed a sizable registration advantage over Democrats.

Saratoga County GOP chairman Jasper Nolan tells Politico.com there is only a “very slim” change Tedisco will emerge the winner “unless there’s some huge flagrant violation.”

According to electoral statistician Nate Silver of the Web site FiveThirtyEight.com, an analysis of absentee ballots suggests “no apparent path to victory for Tedisco,” according to the NYPolitics.com Web site.

Former New York Congressman Tom Reynolds, also a former chair of the National Republican Committee, told Politico: “For Democrats, bragging rights are what they are. And they get momentum for winning a very tough seat for them.”

And while Republicans have stalled efforts so far by Congressional Democrats to seat Minnesota’s Al Franken in the Senate – which could put Democrats just one vote shy of the supermajority they covet to push through President Obama’s legislative agenda — it is far less likely the GOP will expend precious resources on the District 20 race that would not significantly alter the balance of power in Congress.

Both the Murphy and Tedisco campaigns are short on money. NYPolitics.com reports that Tedisco’s campaign has $122,325 on hand, based April FEC filings — but the campaign’s outstanding bills total $200,000. Murphy’s campaign isn’t in much better shape financially: He has $187,127 in cash, with debts of $250,000.

Tedisco has mounted a court challenge contending that voters from New York City and Long Island who own second homes in the district cast ballots for Murphy that should be disqualified. Such an objection faces several difficulties, however, including the difficulty of proving a given voter recently had cast a ballot in a different jurisdiction.

The embarrassment of a GOP defeat could have broader consequences. In addition to the GOP advantage in voter registration in the upstate New York congressional district, the race was widely touted as a bellwether of political reaction to the Obama administration’s economic policies.

Several informed observers have told Newsmax that a defeat would be a serious blow to embattled RNC Chairman Michael Steele, who invested heavily in the contest and elevated it to national significance.

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