Nets Claim GOP Plan for 'Deep Cuts' in Medicare Led to 'Seismic' Dem Win in NY Special Election

All three network morning shows on Wednesday cheered Democrat Kathy Hochul winning the special election in New York's 26th congressional district and framed the outcome as a rejection of Republican plans to reform Medicare. On NBC's Today, news reporter Ann Curry proclaimed: "The race hinged on Hochul's opposition to a Republican-led plan to make deep cuts in Medicare." [Audio available here]

On ABC's Good Morning America, news reporter Josh Elliot declared Hochul's win to be "a seismic event in the political world" and a "shocking upset." Like Curry, he declared: "The GOP candidate lost after backing that Republican plan to cut billions from Medicare." In reality, the Republican budget plan increases Medicare spending from $563 billion to $953 billion ten years from now. That’s an increase of nearly 70%.

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CBS's Early Show did a full report on the election results and used a sound bite from Hochul herself to claim the GOP plan would cut funding to Medicare: "And now, she [Republican Jane Corwin] wants to cut Medicare to pay for more tax breaks for multi-millionaires." Correspondent Nancy Cordes failed to correct the record, instead contending: "Hochul hit her Republican opponent with ad after ad, tying her to the House Republicans' plan to turn Medicare into a voucher system, and it worked....By the end of the campaign, voters said Medicare was their top issue, even more than jobs and the federal budget." The Siena College poll that Cordes cited actually showed voter concerns over Medicare were statistically tied with their concerns over jobs and the deficit.

Speaking to Republican New York Congressman Peter King, Cordes argued: "Democrats have seized on an issue that they think is a winner for them, Medicare, and the polls seem to show that they're right. It was the number one issue in this race in New York. What does that say to you?"

Unlike the news briefs on Today and Good Morning America, Cordes concluded her Early Show report by at least mentioning an alternative explanation for the Democrat's victory: "Now, what many Republicans will argue today is that this race was not a referendum on anything, that it simply came down to the fact that there was a third party candidate, a Tea Party candidate, who siphoned off about 9% of the vote, primarily from the Republican."


Here is a full transcript of Cordes's May 25 report:

7:01AM ET TEASE:

ERICA HILL: We are also going to check in on politics this morning on 'The Early Show.' Democrats celebrating an upset win today, taking a key congressional seat in western New York. So what could it mean for 2012? We'll take a look.

7:12AM ET SEGMENT:

HILL: Looking now at politics here in the States, Democrats this morning hoping a special congressional election in New York State is a sign of things to come in 2012.

CBS News congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes is on Capitol Hill this morning with last night's surprising results. Nancy, good morning.

NANCY CORDES: Good morning, Erica. This race was widely seen as the first big popularity test for the Republican's new Medicare plan. They spent millions of dollars defending it and their candidate in upstate New York, but they lost anyway, and they say this race doesn't mean anything.

[CBS News Graphic: "Upstate Upset: Dem Wins Key Special Election In NY"]

KATHY HOCHUL (from campaign speech): Thank you very much. (crowd cheers and applauds)

CORDES (voice-over): What's surprising about this win for Democrats is where it happened: in the heavily Republican suburbs of Buffalo and Rochester in upstate New York, where GOP Congressman Chris Lee won re-election with 74% of the vote in November, before shirtless photos he sent to a woman on Craigslist surfaced, prompting the married congressman to resign. George Bush won big in this district- so did John McCain. But in this race, the Democrat, Kathy Hochul, hit her Republican opponent with ad after ad, tying her to the House Republicans' plan to turn Medicare into a voucher system, and it worked.

HOCHUL (from campaign ad): And now, she wants to cut Medicare to pay for more tax breaks for multi-millionaires.

CORDES: By the end of the campaign, voters said Medicare was their top issue, even more than jobs and the federal budget. The Republican, Jane Corwin, struggled to change the subject.

[CBS News Graphic: "Top NY-26 Special Election Issue: Medicare: 21%; Jobs: 20%; Federal Budget Deficit: 19%; Margin of Error: +/- 3.9% Pts.; Source: Siena College Research Institute"]

JANE CORWIN: If it's not a perfect plan, and I'm sure it isn't, we need to, you know- I'm open to modifying it or changing or improving.

REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN (from press conference): This is the path to prosperity.

CORDES: All but four House Republicans voted in favor of the Medicare plan, put forth in a budget proposal by Congressman Paul Ryan. But now, some Republicans are looking to put distance between themselves and the plan. Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown announced his opposition this week, saying, 'We can work inside of Medicare to make it more solvent.'

CORDES (from taped interview): Democrats have seized on an issue that they think is a winner for them, Medicare, and the polls seem to show that they're right. It was the number one issue in this race in New York. What does that say to you?

REPRESENTATIVE PETER KING: If that's true, and it could well be, we're going to have to make our case better on Medicare. We have to show as Republicans we're saving Medicare.

CORDES (on-camera): Now, what many Republicans will argue today is that this race was not a referendum on anything, that it simply came down to the fact that there was a third party candidate, a Tea Party candidate, who siphoned off about 9% of the vote, primarily from the Republican. But what Democrats plan to do either today or tomorrow here in the Senate is to hold a vote on that Medicare plan and the budget that encompasses it, to try to tie more Senate Republicans to it as well. Erica?

HILL: Nancy Cordes on Capitol Hill this morning- Nancy, thanks.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC