- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Democrats hope Pat Ryan’s unexpected win in a special election to fill a vacant House seat in New York’s 19th Congressional District is a sign that the Republican Party’s “red wave” will be reduced to a puddle come November.

Top analysts Wednesday downgraded the Republicans’ outlook in the midterm elections and said Democrats may even hang on to their slim majority after Mr. Ryan’s surprise win over Republican Marcus Molinaro.

The nonpartisan Cook Political Report, which provides analysis of elections and campaigns, took notice of Mr. Ryan’s win and lowered its forecast for Republican gains in the House.

Based on “recent developments, we’ve revised our outlook to a 10-20 seat GOP gain, w/Dems maintaining control not out of the question,” said Dave Wasserman, a senior editor at the report.

The revision marked a drastic change from May, when Mr. Wasserman said House Republicans were on track to gain 20 to 35 seats.

Mr. Ryan, Ulster County executive, defeated Mr. Molinaro, the Dutchess County executive, in the race to fill the rest of the term of Democrat Antonio Delgado, who was appointed by Gov. Kathy Hochul to serve as the state’s lieutenant governor.

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The district leaned Republican, and Democrats said Mr. Ryan’s unexpected win showed their voting base was energized by the recent Supreme Court decision that overturned the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.

“Voters are fighting back against Republicans’ extreme attacks on abortion rights,” said Democratic Congressional Campaign Chairman Sean Patrick Maloney said after Mr. Ryan’s win.

Republicans, Mr. Maloney said, “can say goodbye to their ‘red wave’ because voters are clearly coming out in force to elect a pro-choice majority to Congress this November.”

Democrats have suddenly become less pessimistic about a November wipeout that had been forecast partly because of President Biden’s poor approval numbers and high prices at the gas pump and grocery store.

The party has been on the rebound this summer, starting with the abortion ruling that Democrats have seized on to energize their voting base.

On Aug. 2, voters in traditionally conservative Kansas rejected a ballot measure that would have allowed the state Legislature to limit or ban abortion. Polls show voters may have more to say on abortion in November.

On Tuesday, the Pew Research Center Poll found that abortion has become a much more important issue for the majority of voters, Democrats in particular.

Among registered voters, 71% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters said the abortion issue will be “very important” in their midterm votes, up from 46% in March.

Abortion access has been a top campaign issue in key swing-state elections in Arizona, Pennsylvania, Georgia and Wisconsin, where Democratic candidates are leading or tying their Republican opponents, leaving Republicans in doubt about reclaiming the Senate majority.

Mr. Biden, meanwhile, has celebrated a string of victories, including the passage of a tax and spending bill that will cut prescription drug prices, fund green energy projects and extend Obamacare subsidies.

Gasoline prices have dropped for 70 days in a row.

On Wednesday, Mr. Biden announced a student loan forgiveness program that fulfills his key campaign promise of helping alleviate student debt and is aimed at winning over younger voters in November.

Democratic strategists said the abortion issue loomed as the biggest contributor to Mr. Ryan’s surprise win in New York.

“Two non-extremists in their respective parties face-off in a largely suburban, sometimes exurban area, and the battle over a woman’s right to choose against government regulation. Welcome to Kansas,” veteran New York Democratic campaign consultant Hank Sheinkopf said.

New York Republicans rejected Mr. Molinaro’s loss as an indicator for November. They said several unique factors affected the special election.

Former Rep. John Faso, who represented New York’s 19th Congressional District before Mr. Delgado, called it “wishful thinking” and said the primaries were structured to boost Democratic turnout.

One New York Republican political operative who asked to remain anonymous said the Molinaro campaign’s ground game and political messaging against Mr. Ryan’s attacks related to abortion were weak.

The source said the Molinaro campaign was knocking on only about 50 doors a day until a few weeks ago.

“That wouldn’t be good for a city council race or congressional race,” the source said. “There were no get-out-the-vote operations.”

The National Republican Congressional Committee did not respond to a request for comment.

• Kerry Picket can be reached at kpicket@washingtontimes.com.

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