* Interpreting the Dems’ big win in NY-26: The big question in political circles in the wake of Kathy Hochul’s upset win in a conservative New York district is whether Republicans will do any genuine soul searching about what it says about the unpopularity of their Medicare stance or whether they will believe their own spin about the race.
The arguments against reading too much into the results are that Hochul was simply a better, more focused candidate than her GOP rival; the third-party candidate helped swing the race to Dems; and that special elections by nature don’t tell us too much. But the rough consensus among analysts sifting through the numbers is that even if you acknowledge those factors, the race was still a clear referendum on Ryancare and suggests Medicare could be a major factor in 2012 — if Republicans don’t rethink their handling of it.
* How will Republicans interpret the results? Nate Silver crunches the vote numbers and finds Medicare was a major factor — and suggests that this week’s Senate vote on the Ryan will be a good tell on whether Republicans are interpreting the results as indicative of the national political environment.
* Paul Ryan unchastened by last night’s results: Interesting timing: Mike Allen reports that Ryan is releasing another video today making the pitch for his blueprint to end Medicare as we know it — which would suggest that Ryan, for one, is not chastened by what happened last night.
Key question: Do Republican strategists want Ryan to keep talking about his Medicare plan?
* One House Republican says its time to rethink Medicare: In contrast to Ryan, Pete King acknowledges the obvious: “We definitely have to determine the extent to which the Medicare issue hurt us.”
* Republicans in marginal districts will be “petrified”: E.J. Dionne says you should ignore the GOP spin:
I don’t care what Republicans say publicly on Wednesday: This race has to worry them, and it will petrify first-term Republicans in middle-of-the-road or Democratic-leaning districts who voted for the Ryan budget. Democrats should be very grateful that Ryan put his plan together, and that House Speaker John Boehner forced Republicans to vote on it.
* House GOP faces perils of being in charge: As Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake note, the NY-26 results show that 2010 already seems like a long time ago and House Republicans could now be on the receiving end of the electorate’s volatilibility.
* Ryancare pumping up Dem enthusiasm? Josh Marshall argues that Hochul matched the Dem performance in 2006 — a huge wave year for Dems — meaning that there’s no way to spin this as anything but a clear Dem win.
And Mark Blumenthal notes another reason for the Hochul win: Dem turnout was higher than in previous years, which raises the possibility that the battle over Medicare is now giving Dems a possible edge in the “enthusiasm gap.”
* But will Dems squander their advantage on Medicare? Brian Beutler reports that Medicare cuts are on the table in the Biden-led deficit reduction talks, and adds more key points to my argument yesterday that Dems are at risk of blowing their gains.
Relatedly, Digby translates the position of Dems who seem to be agreeing in advance that serious Medicare cuts are needed: “Don’t worry, Republicans. We won’t even bluff if that means we might win.”
* Willl a “grand bargain” stop GOPers from attacking Dems over Medicare? Atrios and Joan McCarter note that if Dems think reaching a “grand bargain” on Medicare will protect them politically, they’re deluding themselves
* Next stop: New Hampshire: Lefty groups hope the victory in NY-26 will give them momentum to realize their long-held dream of replacing GOP Rep. Charlie Bass with liberal heroine Annie Kuster.
* House GOP unified on debt ceiling: Republicans will hold a symbolic vote today on a “clean” debt ceiling increase with no spending cuts attached — and not a single Republican will vote for it.
* GOP escalates its attack on Elizabeth Warren: Ari Berman has a detailed rundown on the verbal scuffle between Warren and House GOPers yesterday.
* More Dems playing along with criticism of Obama on Israel: More and more Congressional Democrats are revealing that they’re not above legitimizing the notion that Obama’s stance is anti-Israel, forcing the White House to undertake a new effort to mend relations with Jewish leaders.
* And Dems actively enabling conservative falsehoods about Obama: It’s hard to overstate how pathetic it is that Dem Rep. Rob Andrews of New Jersey is accusing Obama of “tilting towards Hamas.” More on all this later.
What else is happening?