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Murphy Wins in NY-20: Let the Spin Begin!

Republican Jim Tedisco has conceded in the race to replace Kirsten Gillibrand in New York’s 20th Congressional District, making Scott Murphy the newest Congressman from the Hudson Valley region.

Democrats, certainly, have reason to have an extra round of drinks tonight. But keep in mind the advice that I issued before:

From an analytical standpoint, whether Scott Murphy remains ahead of Jim Tedisco after absentee ballots are counted (and that is anything but a sure thing) is largely immaterial. […] When elections are decided by hundredths of a percentage point, there is a lot of luck involved.

[The] default expectation is that a district like NY-20 should indeed be a toss-up — which is exactly what we wound up getting. The contest turned out about the same …. as we might have expected it to had it been held on November 4th.

The status quo, in other words, was more or less preserved.

That is, first, whether Murphy lost by 400 votes or won by 400 votes does not significantly alter the “meaning” of this election. If he had won by 40,000 votes, or 14,000 votes, or maybe even 4,000 votes, that might have required a different interpretation. But winning by a fraction of a point is not much different than losing by a fraction of a point.

And second, a very narrow victory (by either candidate!) is about par for the course in this district based on what we saw in 2006 and 2008. Now, that probably does qualify as good news for the Democrats, since 2006 and 2008 were very good elections for them. The party controlling the White House almost always loses ground in off-year elections, so merely preserving the conditions of 2006/08 would be a very good result for the Democrats. However, as Michael Barone suggested, NY-20 is a somewhat atypical district in which Obama may have had relatively few coattails, and therefore may not be a leading indicator for what Democrats can expect in 2010. These results need to be balanced against others post-election elections like LA-2 and the Georgia Senate runoff, which contained pretty good news for Republicans.

If there is a better reason for Democrats to feel cheerful this Friday, it is from the 1Q Senate fundraising totals. I didn’t realize this when I posted those figures yesterday, but Democrats performed way better than Republicans across the board in the First Quarter, raising a collective $31 million (or $27 million if one does not count Texas, where there is not officially a senate race yet) to the Republicans’ $12 million.

Nate Silver is the founder and editor in chief of FiveThirtyEight.