I don't ascribe much political prognosticating value to the Republican special election loss in upstate New York. Republicans lost a special election in a heavily GOP district very early in the 2010 cycle. It didn't have any bearing on the outcome of the general election; I don't think NY-26 will have much bearing either.
That's not to say that there isn't work to be done, as Michael Barone rightly notes:
I think it has to be said that the Medicare issue helped the Democrat win an upset victory in a district that remained Republican even in the very Democratic years of 2006 and 2008...
Republicans need to go on the offensive on Medicare. Or as the Washington Post’s Dan Balz wrote in his analysis: “Republican leaders believe in their agenda and are not likely to back away from it just because they lost one House seat, particularly one that they could very well win back in 2012. But they have not yet won the argument over how best to deal with the country’s fiscal problems. They have accepted the responsibility to propose. Now they will need to learn how to persuade.”
There's an old saying in politics. Either you're on offense, or you're on defense.
The stakes for this country, and the irresponsibility of Obama and the Democrats is too great (they've gone two years without passing an annual budget and Obama's budget proposal was so bad that not one Democrat even voted for it), for the Republicans to sit on defense when it comes to being attacked on things like Medicare.
The Democrats have already slashed over half a trillion dollars out of Medicare as a part of Obamacare, and even so the program will collapse if something isn't done. Medicare needs to be reformed. If it isn't, then it will eventually become impossible for the government to pay for it and it cease to exist.
The sick irony is that the dark future in the Democrats' scary ads will come to fruition if their current policies are allowed to continue. The only way to avoid that future is to reform Medicare, and the country's entire entitlement system.
Republicans aren't alone in recognizing this. Heck, Bill Clinton says as much, too.
"So anyway, I told them before you got here, I said I’m glad we won this race in New York," Clinton told Ryan, when the two met backstage at a forum on the national debt held by the Pete Peterson Foundation. But he added, “I hope Democrats don't use this as an excuse to do nothing.”
Ryan told Clinton he fears that now nothing will get done in Washington.
“My guess is it’s going to sink into paralysis is what’s going to happen. And you know the math. It’s just, I mean, we knew we were putting ourselves out there. You gotta start this. You gotta get out there. You gotta get this thing moving,” Ryan said.
Clinton told Ryan that if he ever wanted to talk about it, he should “give me a call.” Ryan said he would.
So Clinton likes that Democrats won, even as he admits that the tactics that achieved the victory are destructive to the country as a whole.
The realization that Medicare is on an unsustainable course is not a new one. It's something that Democrats used to agree with.
Democrats like Barack Obama, back in spring of 2009, just two short years ago; my how things change:
"What we still haven't seen from those who would argue that we're trying to do too much is an alternative budget," Obama said. "And the reason we haven't seen an alternative budget is because they know full well that the real drivers of our deficits long-term have almost everything to do with our rising health care costs. Our problem is Medicare and Medicaid, and we can't fix that unless we fix health care as a whole."
And Paul Ryan, of course, is always ahead of the curve. He's already got a new video out on YouTube going on offense, making the case: