NYT Sees GOP's Special Election Loss as Harbinger for November

The Times continued to use its front-page real estate to trumpet last week's G.O.P.'s loss in a special House election in Pennsylvania as a warning sign for the 2010 elections, even though the seat had been occupied by veteran Democrat Rep. John Murtha and Democrats hold a registration edge in the district of 2-1.

On Thursday it was congressional reporter Carl Hulse's "House Victory Lifts Democrats' Hopes for Fall." On Monday, Hulse (pictured at right) teamed with reporter Jeff Zeleny for another front-page story, flipping the coin from Democratic hopes to Republicans worrying they're going to blow their chance: "Republicans See Big Chance, But Worry About Wasting It."

Republicans remain confident of making big gains in the fall elections, but as the midterm campaign begins in earnest, they face a series of challenges that could keep the party from fully capitalizing on an electorate clamoring for change in Washington.

There are growing concerns among Republicans about the party's get-out-the-vote operation and whether it can translate their advantage over Democrats in grass-roots enthusiasm into turnout on Election Day. They are also still trying to get a fix on how to run against President Obama, who, polls suggest, remains relatively well-liked by voters, even as support for his agenda has waned.


A series of events last week prompted a re-examination among Republicans of where the party stands less than six months before the midterm elections. In Pennsylvania, a Republican House candidate, Tim Burns, lost a special election by 8 points in a swing district of the sort the party needs to capture to have a shot of regaining the majority. And in a Republican primary for a Senate seat from Kentucky, Rand Paul, a leading emblem of the Tea Party, won a commanding victory.

The story buried a piece of good news for Republicans - they actually picked up a seat in a special election in of all places, blue (state) Hawaii:

Republicans continue to have much in their favor, and over all appear to be in a stronger position than Democrats. They continue to benefit from a widespread sense among voters that government has gotten too expansive, with Mr. Obama's health care bill as Exhibit A. The economic recovery remains tepid, with unemployment still high.

Republicans raised more money than Democrats last month, a reflection of the optimism about the potential for gains in November among the party's contributors. And the party did pick up a House seat in Hawaii on Saturday in a special election in a district that is heavily Democratic - two rival Democrats split their party's vote - but Democrats expressed confidence they would win the seat back in November.

While Democrats also face challenges motivating their base this year, the Democratic margin of victory in the House race in Pennsylvania suggests that the party may enjoy organizational capabilities that Republicans do not.

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