This is an opinion piece written by and republished with the permission of William A. Jacobson, a Cornell law professor who runs the conservative blog, “Legal Insurrection.”

Should anyone wish to write a response, we would gladly run it. The original column, which can be found here, is about the Congressional election in New York’s 23rd District (which includes Ithaca).

 — Jeff Stein

With rating change to “Likely Republican” will national money keep flowing into a losing battle?

I know, don’t count your chickens.

But …

I’ve been following the moribund and hapless campaign of Martha Robertson in my home NY-23 District since last September, when I exposed a false fundraising solicitation that GOP operatives were caught trying to take down the Robertson website.

In what would become a precursor to a bizarre hide-the-candidate strategy, the Robertson campaign had shifting explanations and made promises, such as hiring a forensic expert, it did not keep.

The campaign could have put the issue to rest early by simply admitting it made a mistake and offering to return donations made in reliance on the false claim, but it didn’t, so the issue has lingered.

Robertson’s inability to admit her own weaknesses set the tone early, as Robertson’s campaign went into shut-down mode on issues such has her strong support for single payer — yeah, we found that gem video, too — and the use of Obamacare as just the first step.

Courtesy of Legal Insurrection

With the exception of the City of Ithaca, the mostly rural, Republican-leaning district is not keen on getting government more involved in our lives.

So a liberal Democrat like Robertson was going to have an uphill battle, and would need a solid campaign to avoid being stigmatized as just another out-of-touch Ithaca liberal.

How liberal is Ithaca? When I moved here in 2008, these could have been the directions I gave people to my house:

To live in Ithaca is to live in a city alive with anti-Bush, anti-war protest. I often joke that the directions to my house in Ithaca read as follows: Take a right at the fifth Obama sign, a left at the third “Impeach Bush” placard, bear right at the “Support Our Troops, End the War” poster, and we are the house just after the “There’s a Village in Texas Missing its Idiot” banner.

Robertson has plenty of money — she’s backed by Emily’s List and the DCCC has made her a top “Red-to-Blue” priority.

While anything can happen, and Reed should not be complacent, the Robertson campaign just doesn’t seem to be catching on.

Robertson tried to make Veterans benefits an issue, then botched the explanation of why the Veterans Administration had problems.

Reed has been on the air early, portraying Robertson as too liberal for the district:

Reed even started a website, about Robertson.

Reed also has been running feel good family ads:

It seems to be working.

The Cook Political Report, which earlier this year had moved the race from Likely Republican to Lean Republican, has just moved it back to Likely Republican, as reported by local The Elmira Star-Gazette:

The Cook Political Report now rates the 23rd Congressional District, where Reed is running against Democratic Tompkins County Legislator Martha Robertson, as “likely Republican” instead of “lean Republican.” That means the race is still competitive, but Robertson is now considered an underdog.

Cook notes that Reed, a former mayor of Corning, has been running early campaign ads on television, including one that criticizes Robertson’s “extreme Ithaca agenda.”

“It’s rare for an incumbent to jab a town in their own district, but in this case, it’s a useful tactic to define Robertson in the more culturally conservative majority of the district,” the Cook Report said. “This isn’t one of Democrats’ better pickup opportunities.”

Perhaps Robertson’s campaign knew this was coming, because just a couple of days ago Robertson sent out a fundraising plea for help, arguing that the Reed air campaign might knock her out of the race before the fall:

As you read this email, Tom Reed is running a malicious ad campaign against Martha.

His goal? Knock Martha out of the race before we even get to the Fall.

We’ll be honest, if we don’t respond, it’s a real possibility.


Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.