The G.O.P.'s 'Embarrassing Loss' in Upstate New York?

In "Democrats in Congress See Election as Giving New Urgency to Their Agenda," congressional reporter Carl Hulse managed, as he often does, to tilt the conversation in a direction favorable to Democrats.

Thursday's story came in the aftermath of two big Republican wins in New Jersey and Virginia governors' races. Yet Hulse, echoing liberal wishful thinking, portrayed the special congressional race in upstate New York, where Douglas Hoffman, running on the Conservative ballot, came within a few points of beating the Democrat, as an "embarrassing loss."

Blaming election setbacks on a drop in voter enthusiasm, Congressional Democrats said Wednesday that losses in governors' races in Virginia and New Jersey - and a striking House win in New York - should give new urgency to their legislative agenda, including a sweeping health care overhaul.


As they assessed the results, Democratic lawmakers and party strategists said their judgment was that voters remained very uneasy about the economy and did not see Democrats producing on the health, energy and national security changes they promised when voters swept them to power only a year ago.


Republicans portrayed the election outcome as a repudiation of Democratic policies and predicted significant Congressional gains next year despite Tuesday's embarrassing loss in a longtime House Republican stronghold in upstate New York.

Hulse let House Speaker Nancy Pelosi claim, without rebuttal, that a night that included huge wins by conservative Republicans in the governors' races in Virginia and New Jersey was a "victory for health care reform."

From a purely Congressional perspective, Tuesday was a positive night for Democrats as they retained a California seat in a special election and picked up the seat in upstate New York partly as a result of a Republican Party feud. The winner of that race, Bill Owens, has already assured Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California that he will support the party health care proposal that could reach the floor this weekend, aides said.


Mr. Owens and John Garamendi, a California Democrat who won a House seat in the Bay Area vacated by a Democrat, could be sworn in as early as Thursday, bringing the party breakdown in the House to 258 to 177 in favor of Democrats, a net increase of one.


"This was a victory for health care reform," Ms. Pelosi said. "From our standpoint, we picked up votes last night."


While not discounting the Republican wins in Virginia and New Jersey, Democrats said the New York and California House races were the only contests that centered on Congressional issues and Democrats won both despite months of Republican attacks on the legislative priorities of President Obama and Congressional Democrats.

Hulse (eventually) interrupted the Democratic happy talk, four paragraphs from the end:

Yet there were ominous signs for Congressional Democrats in the results, notably in Virginia, where Democrats picked up three Republican seats last year and acknowledge that they will have difficulty holding on to them. Republicans noted that in two of those freshman districts, the Republican victor for governor, Robert F. McDonnell, won by a more than 20-point margin.